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At last week’s HEALTHCARE DESIGN conference in Phoenix, Texas A&M University professor and service marketing expert Len Berry shared some insights on healthcare as a service business. He told us that healthcare is the most unique service there is because it is:

  1. A need based service, rather than a want based service
  2. The most personal, intimate service; often stripping away dignity
  3. The most important service; affecting quality of life and sometimes life itself
  4. The most dangerous service; exposing people to great risk
  5. The most operationally complex service; requiring many parts and pieces to make it work
  6. The most stressful service; emotionally and physically demanding for both patients and staff

We Don't Know How Much It Costs

Healthcare is also the only professional service we pay for where we don’t know how much it’s going to cost. Think about that.

Would you hire an attorney to draw up your will, accountant to file your taxes, or architect to design your new healthcare facility without knowing how much it’s going to cost?

In life-threatening healthcare situations, the first thing that comes to mind is not how much it’s going to cost. And that’s probably a good thing. But for most healthcare services, consumers should be able to make choices based on how much it’s going to cost.

In the U.S., healthcare reform is pushing us toward more consumer choice, some of which is cost-based, but most of which is experienced-based. Until there are reforms to the insurance payment system, there will be few incentives for us to make choices based on cost.

Progress on the Patient Experience

We’re making progress in the patient experience department, though. Government mandated HCAHPs surveys that measure patient satisfaction with their experience of care has made this a top of mind issue for healthcare providers.

The design of the physical environment can and does affect the patient experience — as well as most of Berry’s service characteristics listed above. Research has shown that it can also affect healthcare costs — by helping to reduce pain medication, length of stay, infections, and medical errors.

So, making a choice of where to get healthcare services based on facility design is important as well. What can we do to get consumers to understand that?

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Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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