April 18, 2017

3 Key Benefits to Extending Hospital Retail Hours

Earlier this year by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) reported on the growing trend of Canadian hospitals getting rid of the traditional visiting hours for families.

The Better Together movement has resulted in nearly 50 Canadian hospitals reviewing and/or adopting family presence policies, including adding 24 hour visiting hours.

The driving force behind this shift are the improved health outcomes and better overall care that come when hospitals offer for more accommodating visiting hours, along with a host of other benefits for both the institution and the patient.

Increased family presence can impact everything from reducing medication errors to the number of readmissions. It also creates a more collaborative environment for patients, families and medical staff, which results in more informed medical assessments and care planning.

With this new flow of additional people through the hospital during “off” hours, there are now many individuals who need retail services during their visits.

Additionally, when creating a retail strategy for healthcare institutions, we are regularly asked by the staff to offer some form of 24/7 retail. In most cases, the limited overnight population means it is not viable for operations to stay open. With around the clock visiting hours, there may be a more compelling reason to extend hours of key retail services.

Here are three key benefits to extending hospital retail hours to consider:

Fulfilling the Needs of Visitors and Staff

Evidence consistently shows a clear benefit to adopting a patient and family-centred approach to visiting hours. Patients who are isolated while they are most vulnerable are at a greater risk for inconsistent care, negative events, and possible emotional trauma.

By extending hours, it creates a larger support network for both the patient and the staff, which makes for a more collaborative experience for everyone.

Visits to the hospital can be a stressful time and simple things like being able to grab a coffee, browse through a shop and sit quietly for a few minutes can make a huge difference to a patient’s support system.

A hospital offering 24 hour visiting hours will have people looking for retail and food options during what have traditionally been “non-peak” hours. Whether it’s a quick cup of coffee or a get well gift, visitors will be expecting some services to be available. By providing choices within the building, more time can be spent with the patient.

Additionally, it’s not only visiting hours that are going 24/7. More and more procedures, like MRIs or Cat Scans, are being scheduled around the clock, which also means more traffic in the hospital from staff, patients and visitors, all of whom may have their own needs to be met.  

Patient, Visitor and Staff Satisfaction

While medical treatment is the number one priority for patients, retail is a big piece of the overall healthcare experience, particularly for loved ones who are waiting.

As more hospitals move to a 24-hour cycle for visiting and procedures, more people are looking for food and retail choices when these operations would traditionally be closed.

For patients, the reasons for increased satisfaction are clear. Having family or friends around helps decrease anxiety and the feelings of loneliness that often accompany a hospital stay. It allows for them to feel more comfortable as they have people who can advocate for them with staff.

From the perspective of the staff, these visiting hours means a more patient-centered,  and collaborative approach to healthcare. More and more, patient’s families are being viewed as partners when it comes to care and recovery of the patient. Allowing family members to be present through extended hours provides more opportunities for staff to discuss things like critical care instructions that will need to be followed after discharge.

All of this adds up to a greater needs for options for both retail and food services as part of overall satisfaction. The more time visitors spend in the hospital, the greater their need for these services.

For example, someone who is there to keep a family member company through a critical time is not going to want to get in their car and drive to the closest coffee shop at 3 a.m. Or a visitor who’s come in from a rural location to sit with a patient won’t be turning around to drive back home to get their cell phone charger.

The bottom line is that the more options for food and retail that can be included during these expanded hours, the more both staff and visitors can focus on the patient and their needs. Not needing to worry about the details, which means a positive overall healthcare experience for everyone supporting the patient.

The Potential for Additional Revenue

With any retail strategy, generating additional revenue is an important element. Adding 24/7 retail to meet staff and visitor needs will likely add additional revenue to the hospital’s bottom line.

Not all hospitals will see a large influx of people in the hospital in the off hours (many of the hospitals are small community hospitals) so it is important to understand what the need really is is and what operations are needed.

This is where things can get creative with new types of retail being added While a hospital may not be able to add 24/7 retail they may be able to add self-service options along the lines of
Amazon Go.

Adopting a concept like Amazon Go would mean the hospital could still offer plenty of food options to meet the needs of visitors and employees, without increasing staffing budgets.
With this type of option for food/beverage the hospital could use using food services staff already working during traditional hours to put together fresh, pre-made items means more options for buyers.

There are also many new vending options – not the pop and candy vending machines of the past – but rather machines that offer fresh and healthy food choices.  Many of these machines provide much more than just food choices, there are some that offer electronics or even toiletries. A few strategically chosen vending machines could easily boost revenue.

vending machine

The changing nature of hospital operations means there are many opportunities for your organization to better serve your patients, staff, and visitors while generating additional revenue.

LHR Consultants has considerable experience developing strategy for healthcare, retail, and other organizations and offers project management services for flawless execution. To discuss your specific needs, contact us for a free consultation at: [email protected].


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