Picture this: You arrive at your summer holiday destination and step into an air-conditioned, exquisitely styled lobby, where you are greeted with a smile and a chilled glass of lime-infused water. A porter whisks away your luggage and a receptionist presents you with everything you will need for your stay. She already knows you want the WiFi password and to know when breakfast is, and reminds you that if she can be of any help at all, you simply have to ask. Great hospitality caters to your every whim, makes you feel enveloped in attention, whilst also leaving you space to center your thoughts and indulge your senses. In stark contrast, visits to the hospital can feel daunting. The atmosphere cold and sterile. Would it not make a difficult diagnosis and a challenging path to recovery that little bit more manageable if the atmosphere were more… well, hospitable?
Few diagnoses are quite as hard to stomach as cancer. Often, a cancer diagnosis marks the beginning of a tough journey of physically and emotionally trying times for both the patient and his or her loved ones. Treatment may entail radiotherapy, chemotherapy or even surgery, but regaining good health also depends on an environment conducive to healing.
Dr. Peter Yesawich, who spoke at the Swiss Medical Spa & Hospitality Think Tank hosted by EHL Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (SSTH), Chur-Passugg, on 6 June 2019, knows this all too well:
Patients (and caregivers) should be liberated from the sources of stress or anxiety that interfere with their ability to focus on treatment… and getting well.
Dr. Yesawich serves as the Chief Brand Officer of Brown Legacy Group, in which capacity he provides oversight of the development and marketing of selected corporate assets in the BLG portfolio, including Cancer Treatment Centers of America®.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America®: a prime example of care
Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) runs five comprehensive cancer care centers and ten outpatient care centers across the United States. Rated the number one U.S. healthcare brand according to YouGov 2018, CTCA works with over 800 clinicians and 4,600 stakeholders. It offers a robust, multidisciplinary precision medicine program, instrumentalizing its expertise to treat many forms of cancer, including advanced-stage and complex cases, using cutting-edge technologies.
What makes CTCA stand out, however, is not only its progressive, molecular approach to cancer treatment, its genomic testing, or its clinical innovation in immunotherapy, but also the mentality that underlies the way it treats its patients: The Mother Standard® of Care.
Take it from Julian Schink, Chief Medical Officer at CTCA:
We treat every patient the way you would want your mother to be treated.
This new model of care, developed by Richard J. Stephenson, Founder and Chairman of the Board, has changed the way oncologists, surgeons and other clinical professionals treat patients with cancer. Seeing cancer patients not just as patients, but as people in all their facets, it provides a patient-centered approach to cancer treatment in a compassionate, nurturing environment.
What cancer patients want: understand and deliver
CTCA goes the extra mile to understand and deliver what patients need and want. Every two years, it conducts a national survey of patients and caregivers called The Cancer Experience.
As you might expect, the 2017 results show that excellent clinical results are the primary drivers of treatment facility selection, with the availability of clinical trials also playing a significant role. Based on the additional factors identified as meaningful, CTCA has tailored its service to cover all bases. With this in mind, it has a full-time team of patient financial advocates to front negotiations with insurance providers, a brand-standard time from approval of admission to the physician’s intake room of eight days, lab work processed on site, often seeing a turnaround within the hour, and a medical team freed of any patients-per-day quotas to ensure doctors can spend as much time with patients as they need in a comforting, stress-free environment.
Many patients also cited an integrative approach to care as an important factor in their decision-making, so this has been made a cornerstone of CTCA practice.
Integrative cancer care is a model of care that combines conventional cancer treatment with supportive services like mind-body modalities, nutrition, naturopathic and spiritual support, oncology rehabilitation, acupuncture, and chiropractic care to help patients manage symptoms and improve quality of life
Carolyn Lammersfeld, Vice President of Integrative Care Services at CTCA, explains.
A key performance gap was identified, namely in the coordination of care. These are aspects such as the availability of the integrative care team, having an individual to coordinate one’s care and the possibility of 24-hour appointments. These are not strictly medical aspects but pertain to the way patients want to live with their care.
According to Dr. Yesawich, this is where the hospitality mindset comes into its own. Something can be done about these factors to relieve patients of any stress, so they can concentrate on getting better. With this in mind, CTCA strives to provide a single point of contact for care coordination who can also take care of the cumbersome burden of retrieving and compiling medical records and provide assistance with travel arrangements. It offers on-site lodging accommodation for patients and caregivers, and organic cuisine designed to nurture weakened immune systems. It even runs an online portal for on-demand communications with the clinical or care team.
This move towards catering to the all-round patient experience is befitting of the current shift in the healthcare and wellness sector. As highlighted in Deloitte’s 2019 Global Health Care Outlook, with patients and caregivers expecting coordinated, convenient, and customised healthcare solutions, “enhancing the patient experience is a potential area for dramatic change”. If, against the backdrop of increasing competition and global access to medical tourism, healthcare facilities are to remain competitive and attract the best employees, they must have recourse to hospitality and client experience design. This reframes and underscores the importance of soft skills such as empathy.
Tying into this new landscape, the SSTH has developed a trailblazing approach to their F&B and Hotel training curriculum by taking customer centricity a step further in what they’ve defined as Affective Hospitality. This innovative concept takes its cues from affective sciences and experience design to train future hospitality managers to identify, design and deliver unique experiences to guests.
The proof is in the ranking
If ever an establishment has succeeded in marrying medical expertise and empathy, it’s Cancer Treatment Centers of America®. So much so that, in national HCAHPS surveys conducted in 2017/2018, 92.40% of patients reported that, yes, they would definitely recommend a CTCA hospital, compared with the national average of 72.80%, ranking in the 97th percentile.
Anticipating patients’ and caregivers’ needs and wishes, being accommodating and forthcoming, treating them like cherished guests – in short, applying the principles of hospitality to treatment provision – has proven a successful approach.