What Can Hospital’s Learn From Chuck E. Cheese?

chuckI thought about having the meeting at the Westin, but instead chose a place across the street that was a little more upmarket. I left my keys with the valet and headed inside. The lobby was built around a three-story atrium whose center piece included a tiered waterfall garden. A brass plaque indicated that the floor was made of inlaid Carrara marble from Italy. A pianist was playing one of Beethoven’s etudes on a grand piano that had a sheen so brilliant it made me wish I had taken the time to have my shoes shined.

I purchased a half-café, double espresso, machio-something-or-another, and made my way across the inlaid marble to a leather settee whose leather was finer than the seats in my car.

As I waited patiently for my guest, I was reminded by the sign next to the reception desk that cardiology was located on the second floor. Perhaps I should drop by later to say hello to my cardiologist.

Ever wonder why hospitals pay so much attention to how their lobbies look? We know that once we walk through the set of double doors, or head down one of the many hallways with their wayfinder colors painted on the linoleum tile, the look and feel of the lobby disappears.  Whether you are a patient, a visitor, or an employee, the amount of time you spend in the lobby is fleeting compared with the amount of time you spend in the hospital. And yet, there it is. Spacious, inviting, ornate, and gleaming. It almost pleads with you to stay and enjoy your experience.

We know that all of that money and floor space for the lobby must have been allocated for a reason. We know the architect didn’t look at the plans prior to submitting them to their client and say, “Whoops. We forget about designing something for this extra twelve-thousand feet of space. They will notice this goof. I know, let’s put in a big lobby.  And with all of that extra money we have, let’s snaz it up a bit.”

A lobby exists to lobby you into believing that what lies beyond the lobby is equally enticing, that the lobby is just the prelude to what comes next. Maybe that is the same feeling Dorothy and her friends encountered as they passed through the emerald gates. It should be noted however that Dorothy’s wonderful experience was fleeting.

It may be an interesting exercise for a provider to count the number of people who visit their lobby, and then to count the number of people who go to their website and who call the hospital. The website visitors and the callers will greatly outnumber those who pass through the lobby.

And what of their experiences? What would they tell you about those experiences?

What remains important about any experience is the willingness of the individual to have the experience more than once. If they have a horrible experience on the phone, the likelihood of them ever calling again falls precipitously.  Think about your hospital’s website. Can you think of a reason that would entice someone to go to it more than once? Since there is nothing for them to do on the website other than to read about the hospital, is there a reason for them to return to it? If there isn’t, shame on your organization for wasting all of those digital 1’s and 0’s. The hospital’s website is the hospital’s most visible business tool. Unfortunately, its lack of functionality does not make it the hospital’s most valuable business tool.

To adults, hospital websites are healthcare’s version of Chuck E. Cheese; one visit is enough.

Nota bene—the Chuck E. Cheese website is probably a lot more functional than the majority of hospital websites.

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