HealthKey: Area hospitals adding perks like WiFi, gourmet meals

Hospitals are sweetening the pot for patients with upscale meals, private rooms

  • At Franklin Square Medical Center, patient Thomas Seitz, 58, a retired deep sea fishing captain, has his pulse checked by his nurse Mary Price, RN, in one of the new rooms.
At Franklin Square Medical Center, patient Thomas Seitz, 58,… (Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore…)
December 01, 2010|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

When Thomas Seitz sought out a hospital for treatment of his liver disease, the perks were nearly as important as the quality of care.

The 58-year-old retired commercial fisherman from Ocean City wanted a private room — free from the noises of another patient — with some additional amenities that reminded him of home. He wound up going to Franklin Square Hospital Center in Rosedale. There, he channel-surfed on a flat-screen TV with a remote that could also adjust the room lighting or request room-service meals.

"It's not home, but it is the closest thing you can get,"Seitz said. "There aren't any facilities like this in Ocean City."

Hospitals are vying for patients through upscale services, including complimentary valet parking, house musicians and round-the-clock room-service meals. In the Baltimore region, where top-rated hospitals abound, the competition can be fierce, and these added perks can tip the scales for potential patients.

Seitz spent more than a week at Franklin Square, which recently opened a $175 million Patient Care Tower allowing the hospital to make all of its 400 rooms singles. While hospital officials promote the health, safety and efficiency of having perks such as private rooms, they're also another way for the hospital to appeal to patients.

"You always want to attract people to the hospital," said Deborah Hall, administrative director of the medical service line at Franklin Square. "People today have a choice. You want to make sure that you can provide for all their needs."

Mercy Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital and Sinai Hospital are all now in the midst of construction projects that will allow them to provide additional amenities for patients. Mercy's $400 million, 18-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center, which opens this month, will result in the hospital offering 259 private rooms. Each room will have 32-inch flat-screen televisions, safes, Wi-Fi, individual temperature control and access to live streaming services from Mercy Chapel.

At Sinai, a $29.5 million addition to the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital will result in 382 single rooms, where patients will have access to Wi-Fi, local calls and TV stations, room-service meals, and access to their own personalized websites. That project is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2012.

That same year, Hopkins is slated to open the $994 million Sheikh Zayed Tower and the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center, which will add 560 private rooms.

"Patients expect a hospital environment that is modern, comfortable and pleasing," said Judy Reitz, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hopkins Hospital. "Patients assume they will receive good care at Maryland hospitals, but they increasingly want that good care delivered in a comfortable, patient-friendly environment. Hospitals really try to meet and exceed expectations."

Patients aren't the only ones who have noticed the differences the perks make.

"I love it," said Mary Rice, a nurse at Franklin Square, as she took Seitz's blood pressure. "There's more space. And you don't have a curtain separating patients, making it much nicer. ... Now, patients are actually saying they are getting sleep."

Rice, who has worked at the hospital for the past four years, said her patients like the amenities in the new Patient Care Tower.

"You don't go to too many hospitals and see rooms like this," she said.

Franklin Square's seven-story addition, which opened in November, has a spacious new main entrance filled with natural light; a 24-hour room service menu which will soon feature comfort foods like milkshakes; and private rooms each equipped with a safe, full bathroom and pullout bed for guests.

At St. Joseph Medical Center, patients can use valet parking. Two years ago, the hospital's front lobby, entrance and Heart Institute were redesigned with skylights, sculptures and Japanese maples — as well as plants, benches and a meditation garden with koi pond. Harpists play several times a week throughout the hospital. And room service featuring local produce and vegetarian meals is available all day for patients.

St. Joseph's Cancer Institute features a 60-foot atrium with glass walls, and chemotherapy patients can work with an art teacher during their stay. When receiving chemotherapy, patients sit in chairs modeled after first-class airplane seats, with built-in DVD players and computer work areas.

More than three-quarters of the hospital has been fitted with either hardwood laminate or tile-like flooring. Many of the rooms now have sleep benches for family members and upgraded beds. Of the 300 rooms in the hospital, 205 are now singles.

The Marburg Pavilion at Johns Hopkins offers amenities at an additional cost, such as wood furnishings, in-room fax machines and entertainment centers, overnight sleeping accommodations for family members, VCRs and access to a video library.

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