The most dedicated readers of our blog will know that we have for the last few months been posting regular case studies about the world’s most innovative forms of teaching and learning. But education isn’t all that we care about here at Innovation Unit, and in order to tell you more about our ever expanding and very exciting work in health, we’ve decided to bring you a new series of posts – this time offering you a cyber window onto the fascinating world of innovative healthcare. We hope that this range of international case studies will inspire and challenge you to think differently about health, as we explore themes such as the potential of technology to transform healthcare models, new conceptualisations of doctor-patient relationships, and the lessons that might be learnt from other sectors and service providers.
The examples of health care that you will read over the coming weeks have, however, not only been chosen because they are innovative: crucially, they have also been chosen because they have been proven to work, delivering different, better, cheaper outcomes for the people and communities that they serve and support. So to begin with, let’s take a moment to think about hospitals. There are not many people who enjoy spending the night in a hospital, let alone an extended stay. The clinical atmosphere, the uninspiring food, the regimental routine – none of these aspects of hospital life are particularly conducive to higher levels of wellbeing amongst patients. That’s one of the many reasons why Patient Hotels – the first case study in this series - are such a good idea.
Patient hotels in Sweden
The first patient hotel was developed in Sweden in 1988, when Lund University Hospital found itself faced with a familiar dilemma: it had insufficient funds to meet increasing demands for hospital beds. Working in partnership with the Scandinavian hotel chain SAS, the Lund team therefore came up with a new model for patient care that involved a radical rethinking of physical space and the processes involved in health care provision. The idea was simple: able patients would become ‘guests’ in specially designed hotels, recuperating with the support of patients, nurses and family and friends.
Patient hotels are designed with a number of key objectives in mind, which include:
Encouraging able patients to engage in their own self care
Though patients can access the treatment of doctors from afar, the patient hotel model empowers people to manage their own conditions. From doing their own bandaging to taking responsibility for their meals, patients are given more autonomy and independence, while at the same time being able to access the help and expertise of skilled nurses who are also trained in the administration duties necessary to manage and run the hotels.
Creating a more revitalising physical environment
Patient hotels provide a more relaxed space than hospitals, with nurses dressing like hotel staff rather than wearing a traditional nurse uniform. Longer-term patients such as cancer patients can gather in the lobby or restaurant to socialise and support one another to deal with their conditions, while rooms offer patients and their relatives privacy and comfort.
Making effective use of the support that families and friends can offer
Relatives of patients are able to ‘check in’ to the hotels and stay in a bed that is prepared in the patients’ room, often providing vital assistance to patients during the recuperation process. Therefore, by retraining nurses and leveraging the skills and support of patients, families and friends, the Patient Hotel model not only has a positive impact on the wellbeing of those involved in the healthcare process but also reduces pressure on hospital services, particularly the need for expensive hotel beds.
The cost savings are significant: while one hospital bed costs 3000 Sek per night in Sweden, a hotel bed is only 823 Sek per night (conservative estimates suggest that the equivalent saving would be £90 per bed in the UK) – which probably accounts for the reason why the model is now being replicated right across Scandinavia. But what about here in the UK – is there scope for this kind of radical efficiency in the NHS? Tell us your thoughts!