Hospital 'concierge' service grows at Iowa Health
Saturday, October 23, 2010 7:00 AM
According to Towne Park Ltd. concierge staff, “the most fun tasks to complete are the ones where the client starts off by saying, ‘This may sound weird, but ...’” Here are some requests made at hospitals in which the company operates:
Ones they could do:
• Weekly errand to get a particular style of mixed greens for a client to feed her turtle.
• Locate and purchase a high-demand toy gerbil on eBay during the holidays.
• Purchase lingerie at Victoria’s Secret.
• Buy a lawn mower and assemble it.
Ones they couldn’t do:
• Request to wait in a client’s house between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. for the cable TV installer.
• Request to walk a dog or take a dog to the park and clean up after it, every single day.
• Do research and write a college paper.
Some patients at Methodist West Hospital in West Des Moines have received the type of guest services that might be expected at a five-star hotel.
Since the hospital opened last fall, patients and their families have been offered “concierge” services – basically an errand runner who is eager to do the running – whether it’s taking the car for an oil change, picking up dry cleaning or even picking out a birthday gift for a family member.
“We wanted the experience at Methodist West to be more of a hotel-like experience for our patients,” said Sara Kalina, interim executive director of integrated services for Iowa Health - Des Moines.
In July, Iowa Health extended the service to Blank Children’s Hospital, and in the future may expand it to its other two hospitals, Iowa Methodist Medical Center and Iowa Lutheran Hospital.
The service is provided by Towne Park Ltd., a parking services company based in Annapolis, Md., that also offers hotel and hospital concierge services. Among Towne Park’s clients in Greater Des Moines is the Des Moines Marriott Downtown, which uses its valet parking service.
When it comes to requests that can be fulfilled, “the sky’s the limit, really,” said Kevin Ladd, who staffs the concierge desk at Methodist West and also handles Blank’s services. “Anything that they can come up with, from oil changes to fixing tires that are low. We don’t pay for the cost of the service itself; we do the running.”
Leeanne Proffitt, an Indianola resident whose father was hospitalized for five days at Methodist West in June following a hip replacement, said the concierge service impressed her.
“They offered to do anything and everything,” Proffitt said. Though she didn’t have any errands done, it was comforting to know it was available if needed, she said.
Towne Park provides similar concierge services at 10 out of the approximately 100 hospitals where it offers valet parking, Ladd said. Kalina said that Iowa Health interviewed several hospital concierge services before selecting Towne Park. She declined to say how much the health-care provider pays for the contracted service, but said that it provides an invaluable benefit to patients and families.
“When the patient or the family is here, we want them to focus on getting well. If they do not have that outside pressure – I need to get my car serviced, or I need to get this gift for my grandchild – they can focus on the healing, and that’s what we’re in business for.”
At Blank, a popular request from families has been to pick up homework assignments for patients from their schools.
Families don’t have to feel pressured to tip, because the hospital has a no-tipping policy, Kalina said.
Ladd said that probably fewer than 10 percent of patients at the two hospitals are using the concierge service at this point. “We are continually trying to generate more awareness,” he said.
Though Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines does not offer a concierge service at any of its hospitals, it provides a number of in-house conveniences, said spokesman Gregg Lagan.
In addition to free valet parking, Mercy offers a “hoptel” service – reduced-rate hotel rooms for family members of patients or for out-of-town patients receiving outpatient treatments, Lagan said.
Patients can also access “room service” on their telephones and place orders for their meals. Other in-hospital services include patient care coordinators, a notary public, massage therapist, fitness center, hair salon and a Starbucks coffeehouse.
“We have been aware of how offering some amenities or services can help families relieve stress,” Lagan said.
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