A disturbing trend is becoming popular across the United States; many hospitals now resemble luxury five-star hotels. While there’s nothing wrong with catering to a high-end patient clientele: May who prefers to be called “guests” instead of “patients” and want to eat only organic food. There is definitely something wrong when this increase in amenities for patients is done at the expense of, or at a minimum not accompanied by increased efforts in providing greater patient safety.
The New York Times recently reported an increase in the number of hospitals that now cater to the ultra rich. In fact, there has been an dramatic increase in the number of hospitals that are investing millions of dollars, not in patient safety efforts, but gleaming granite floors, fancy lobbies, and luxury private rooms with flat screen TVs, soft couches and garden views. Patients waiting to be wheeled into their rooms at these facilities can enjoy lobby views of indoor waterfalls and designer landscaping while being serenaded by concert pianists.
The high-end hospital is not exactly new to American culture, and there have been hospitals, especially in major cities, that have more expensive rooms for patients who can afford such private treatment. However, many hospitals now add nail salons, room service, organic food served up by a celebrity chef, and all kinds of other luxurious amenities to their facilities.
Unfortunately, even smaller hospitals that cater to the general population are also now investing in such facilities. This is in spite of the fact that there is no data to indicate that such ultra-luxurious treatment has any kind of impact on patient safety. Even more worrisome is the lack of similar investment in helping reduce the risk of hospital-acquired infections, lowering the risk of preventable hospital falls, reducing the effect of ventilator alarm fatigue on nurses, or any of the other dozens of patient safety concerns that still continue to pose a real danger to patients.
Coinciding with the New York Times piece on the new trend of luxury hospitals, is a report that recently pegged the total number of people being killed by medical errors in the United States as more than 400,000. That is much higher than the 98,000 estimate held as a confirmed estimate for many years. The 98,000 estimate came from the To Err Is Human report released by the Institute of Medicine in 1999. However, new statistics recently published in the Journal Patient Safety estimate that between 210,000 and 440,000 Americans die every year, because of errors in hospitals.
Unfortunately, investing in patient safety costs much more in time, resources, staff effort, and commitment than sprucing up hospital rooms. Hospitals, it seems, are opening their eyes to this fact. While hospitals make investments in less expensive campaigns like increasing hand hygiene practices, there does not seem to be a lot of change in other aspects of patient safety that continue to concern us, like the risk of hospital falls, or the risk of ventilator alarm fatigue involving nurses. Further, as hospitals begin to experience the effect of significantly reduced Medicare payments, they will need to determine their priorities, amenities or patient safety. Is there even a choice?
The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy LLP represent persons injured by medical negligence across Indiana.