When Did a Trip to the Hospital Become an Adventurous “Journey?”

2 min

In the latest whitewashing of our ever-more costly healthcare system, hotel-like hospitals with “therapeutic art collections” and haute cuisine are touted as “better for healing.” The notion that “sickness is a journey” is often taken at facilities that invest more in luxury amenities than clinical quality.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, senior contributing editor at KFF Health News, shares her personal reflections on how rebranding illness as an adventure is harmful, irresponsible, and deceptive. Does anyone really equate their “cancer journey” to an Abercrombie & Kent safari? Calling patients “guests” and “customers” doesn’t change their struggle to get quality, affordable healthcare from hospitals facing tight budgets, staffing shortages, and professional burnout.

Sadly, “researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that a hospital investing in amenities would increase demand by 38%, whereas a similar investment in clinical quality would lead to only a 13% increase.” Absent in this is what patients, employers, and society would really like to see hospitals and health systems compete aggressively on: the cost of care.

An honest analysis shows that luxury hospital “amenities have a cost, and they are not worth nearly what we’re paying for them as we’re billed for $100,000 joint replacements and $9,000 CT scans. Room charges in many hospitals can exceed $1,000 a night. And ‘facility fees’ for outpatient procedures and even office visits can reach hundreds of dollars, and simply don’t exist elsewhere.”

“For the amount that American patients (or their employers and insurers) pay for some luxury hospital journeys, they could sign up for a Virgin Galactic suborbital joy ride.”

Let’s Get Real.

Being sick is not an adventure. “A hospital’s function is to diagnose and to heal, at a price that sick people can afford.” “Instead of providing free coffee and a piano in a soaring, art-filled marble lobby, how about focusing on the very basic things that health systems in the U.S. should do, but…in many cases do not.”

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