2018 Congress of the European Association of Hospital Managers

11 October, 2018
  • 8 min read
Article posted by

In the last week of September, Dr. Angelique Lombarts attended a hospital management conference, where she presented the research undertaken by three LYCar students in cooperation with seven hospitals and herself. In this blog, she would like to share some of her experiences, about the conference, its attendees and her presentation. She will first give a short introduction about healthcare in general, hospitals and hospitality. Next, she will describe the conference and its main findings and to conclude she will discuss the presentation hospitality in hospitals.

1. Introduction

Health care concerns everybody and it is often subject of discussion with a variety of topics: the quality, the costs, the organisation(s), the offer(s), the innovations, the staffing problems… the list is endless. Although, all these problems are all interesting subjects, my aim at the conference was to dive into one subject. A subject with which, we at the Hotelschool The Hague, are very familiar with: hospitableness.

For us, once educated as hospitality managers, whether working in the hospitality industry or in a different sector, we will always keep hospitality in our genes or DNA. So, wherever we work, we look from a hospitality perspective at the world and at the various industries/work fields. From that perspective, we looked at the hospitality within hospitals.

There are many similarities that hospitals and hotels share; they both offer (private) rooms, F&B facilities, distraction possibilities (e.g. swimming pool, prayer rooms, lobby and so on), there are security and cleaning services, reservation offices and administration or financial desks. Of course, there are also quite some differences. The most important one being the reason why one visits a hotel or a hospital. A hospital visit is usually a necessity, often not by free choice or pure interest or joy. Illness of oneself or a beloved one is the main reason for a hospital visit. Although the differences are fundamental, we focussed on the similarities, as more and more hospitals want to make their hospitals more hospitable.

In a hotel, every employee, from general manager, bellboy or cleaning staff, knows who the guest is. Hotels and hotel chains have most often clearly defined what their hospitality is. The numerous brands of the Marriott chain tell their own story: the credo of the Ritz-Carlton puts the guest at the heart of their organisation: “The Ritz-Carlton is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission”. At Renaissance hotels they state: “It’s our job to make your trip a little less expected. And a lot more memorable”. Not only high-end, luxury hotels are guest-centred. The one star budget Hotel Abba in Amsterdam promises to offer “affordable accommodation in a beautiful but pricey city”. The budget chain F1 from Accor offers “Freedom and Simplicity on the Road”. Focusing on the needs and wishes of guests is core business for hotels, as they need to assure guest satisfaction to stay in this highly competitive business.

The staff adheres to the brands’ hospitality features, as it is an important part of their proposition. The question arose if this will be the same in a hospital, where the prime focus is on medical treatments. Differently put, will hospital employees define hospitality in the same way? We want to know if this is the case, because of the fact so many hospitals are implementing hospitality programmes. To be successful though, one has to be sure that everybody understands and defines hospitality in the manner.

2. The conference and it main findings

The title of the conference was: “Redefining the Role of Hospitals”. One of the main topics handled was people-centred care. This sounds strange, but it is not as peculiar as we may think. For instance, doctors tend(ed) to focus on the disease someone has; a cardiologic problem, they would look at the heart; with a broken leg their main aim was to fix the leg; when someone has cancer, an oncologist-surgeon would remove the malign tumour. The process of all these treatments is organised around the disease. And therefore, also all the activities of other staff members are arranged around this process. In essence, the patient follows the doctors and the rooms where the treatments are taking place. In a patient centred organisation, one arranges the process around the patient. For us, as hospitality providers, that sounds logical but for hospitals it is a huge adjustment of their whole working process: it’s a paradigm shift!

Another key topic was the integration of care. This means that new clinical pathways are organised in line with the above. Again, more “logical” patterns within treatments are arranged in such a way that it both facilitates and accommodates the patient, but also the care providers. As a layperson, disrespectfully said, it sounds like a sort of supply chain management improvement, an optimisation of processes.

A third strategic point in hospitals is of course, sustainability. I won’t go into depth about this subject, as this is a main discussion in every sector and discipline. The healthcare sector is known for its waste medicaments and tools; for providing unnecessary treatments; inefficient use of medical equipment and operation rooms, and/or patient rooms.

Standardisation was also given quite some attention. Standardisation of working methods, of processes, of equipment and so on. The comparison was made with the aviation sector where standard procedures exist since 1926 whereas in hospitals Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) only saw the light late nineties. Can you imagine that a pilot would have to invent each time during take-off what to do first, what next and so on? No, probably not. Neither would passengers have wanted to fly with all the different airlines worldwide.  The Shouldice Hospital, a world-renowned hernia hospital, proves that standardisation leads to excellence. The “Shouldice Experience” as the hospital calls the treatment, has been a Harvard case study for years as it entails all aspects of business excellence.

It also is the perfect example of what the Hotelschool The Hague, in particular the research line Hospitality, Happiness & Care, advocates to the healthcare sector in The Netherlands. However, as research in this sector is very much evidence based, we have to prove that hospitality has an impact, economically, socially and culturally. As a first step we undertook the research “How do the various hospital tribes define hospitality?”

3. Hospitality in Hospitals

Having experiences in both a professional in the conference sector (organisation & management) and as an academic (presentation and performance), this was my first time to attend a conference in the healthcare sector. I was invited to give a five minute presentation, with two minutes for questions. One has to be very concise and honestly, I found this more challenging than any other presentation I ever given. One has to stick to the essentials, making it interesting and coherent, and even trying to stimulate others to start collaborating for further research. As said, a real challenge. I was truly surprised when I received a verbal mention (compliment) for my presentation. There were about fifty presentations, of which one would get an award. Two other presentations were specially mentioned because of their originality (conditions to win the award).

Apart from the presentation, we made an info graphic. If you would like to receive either, please contact our Hospitality Research Centre via research@hotelschool.nl.

Whenever using this information, please use the following reference:

Lombarts, A. (2018). How do the different tribes in hospitals describe hospitality? Paper presented at the 27th EAHM Congress (European Association of Hospital Managers), 26-28 September 2018, Cascais, Portugal.

About the author

Angelique Lombarts

Dr Angelique Lombarts is appointed Professor of Hospitality, Happiness and Care. Her research at Hotelschool The Hague will be focused on the current social development from experience economy to a new economy, where the importance of relationships and added value are essential. The organisations Dr Lombarts cooperates with, are mainly non-profit and public organisations that need a mind shift to become successful (again). The research will focus primarily on organisations in the healthcare sector.

Share this post