With billions of dollars potentially up for grabs if hospitals can meet the growing demand for a better patient experience, it’s no surprise that hospital executives are digging deep into their bag of tricks to ensure a positive interaction. One of the business units being evaluated is the first touchpoint for most patients: parking operations. Whether hospital administrators are currently working with a parking management firm, are looking for a new provider, or are considering outsourcing, there are five key questions they should ask themselves and the incumbent to ensure they bring more to the table than counting cars.
1. Does the parking management firm understand value-based care?
Before you can attempt to build a fully operational car, you need to understand how a car works. This analogy applies directly to how hospital administrators should feel about whom they trust to manage their parking operations. How do you expect your first point of patient care (parking services) to make a positive impact if the management firm doesn’t demonstrate a clear understanding of issues like the transition from volume- to value-based care, why this transition is happening, and why it matters for hospital parking operations? If firms are unable to answer these questions, they won’t be able to deliver services in a way that maximizes benefits for the hospital and its patients because they don’t understand where parking operations fit in the hospital’s strategic vision.
2. What are the firm’s policies on infectious disease protection and prevention?
To some, this question might seem somewhat odd considering patients are not parking their cars atop hospital beds, but with over 700,000 healthcare-associated infections (HAI) reported in the United States in 2011, infectious disease protection and prevention must be addressed by hospital parking operators. Improved infection control in the parking facilities not only better aligns parking operations with the hospital, but also promotes overall safety.
The reality is that hiring a parking management firm that understands the necessity of infection control opens up two strategic dimensions that can help hospitals save thousands of dollars. Firstly, just one less HAI can save a hospital upwards of $100K, and who’s to say the superbug was not contracted on the shuttle bus, in the elevator, or via the pay-on-foot equipment? Secondly, if parking employees understand how to protect themselves from bloodborne pathogens, seasonal viruses, and the like, they are not only improving their own quality of life, but that of the people they serve and all others with whom they interact. This potentially reduces staff turnover and daily employee shortages.
3. How does the parking management organization plan to become an integrated partner to the hospital?
This question has two main considerations:
Firstly, hospitals are not only creating a reputation for care but also building a personal brand, and it’s crucial for patients to feel like those assisting them into the facility are representative of the hospital and its brand.Every parking firm would love nothing more than to market their brand, but the truth is a hospital is in the business of healing people, getting them home safely, and if a patient happens to become ill again, they want patients to return to THEIR facility not a neighboring hospital. Therefore it’s important that supporting personnel outside the facility help market the hospital.
Secondly, hospitals have developed a number of safety protocols to help prevent acts of terror, violence, and/or other security issues. It’s important that your parking employees look past their own agenda and familiarize themselves with hospital protocols and complete any applicable training. This will allow parking to become an extra set of eyes ensuring compliance with safety protocols outside the healthcare facility itself.
4. Can the organization meet the hospital’s future needs?
Throughout my experience in business development within hospital parking management, I have had countless conversations with hospital administrations regarding how their needs change and evolve beyond those identified at the onset of given partnership or agreement. By this, I mean that when hospitals begin a partnership with a supplier they have a particular set of needs, but as the contract advances the hospital’s needs grow. This creates the necessity for multiple vendors if the initial vendor proves unable supply all of their needs. For example, a hospital might enter into a parking management agreement and as their patient demand increases, they may find themselves in need of a shuttle operation. The hospital may then be forced to initiate a rigorous RFP process to find a separate provider for the shuttle service. It would be a best practice to verify that a parking firm is able to deliver a broad range of services (beyond those absolutely required here and now) prior to committing to a partnership in order to avoid future headaches.
5. Is the company engaging?
So what is meant by “engaging”? As a representative of an organization with a history of maintaining long-term contracts with hospitals, I believe the primary reason for this success is our engagement with the hospital administration. Meaning we bring forth concerns and improvement recommendations regularly, and the hospital feels comfortable bringing up ideas that might not be directly related to parking as they trust our logistical knowledge. In order to secure an engaged parking provider, it’s advised to contact references of potential suppliers and determine what their client relationships are really like. Are they just checking a box for their healthcare clients, or are they aware of the current state of hospital operations and the organization’s goals and future plans?
As stated, the patient experience ranks as the top priority at all hospitals, and many experts believe the key to value-based care is employee engagement. This goes beyond nurses, doctors, and other frontline staff to encompass all levels of the hospital and its service providers. The patient experience is inclusive of all interactions on hospital grounds, including those in the parking facilities.
I encourage you to not just contemplate these five questions when considering a partnership with a parking provider, but rather actually ask them and use them in your evaluation. Many organizations claim to be a top-rate hospital parking provider, but given the specialized nature of hospital parking as compared to a commercial operation, administrators can sift out poor performers by drilling down on real healthcare knowledge and experiences.