Putting patients and loved ones at ease is a cornerstone of the guest and family experience in healthcare settings. Healthcare providers recognize that the experience starts long before they walk through the front doors. The experience often begins and ends with parking or valet and continue through to patient transport services and beyond.
One of the most common parking complaints in healthcare settings is the lack of convenience and accessibility. Offering valet parking at the busiest entrance points to the building eliminates the need for patients driving around and parking in a remote location.
It improves traffic flows to prevent bottlenecks near high-traffic entrances and emergency departments. Patients then can arrive at their appointments on time and less frazzled, which results in fewer missed appointments. Hospital valet parking also helps patients avoid the pain of walking when ill or experiencing physical limitations.
While these services can be contracted out, it is important to find the right provider that follows best practices while also offering fully managed programs with the versatility to meet the provider’s evolving needs.
Creating an adaptable team
Valet services for healthcare facilities are not the same as a traditional hospitality valet program and go well beyond simply parking a car. They require a specialized skillset marked by a high-level of service and compassion and knowledge of patient privacy and safety protocols.
Rigorous employee screening is critical, particularly since these candidates are the frontlines of the healthcare experience.
Screening procedures verify team members are professional, friendly, responsible and reliable. Finding the right people can be challenging during staff shortages or new endeavors. A third-party provider can help bridge the gap with short-term, well-qualified team members. For example, if a hospital is undertaking a new project that needs six full-time employees immediately, an adaptable valet team can temporarily fill those spots to allow for the transition to occur more rapidly.
A comprehensive and wide-ranging training program is also essential. It must encompass patient and guest interactions to create a welcoming and safe environment, facilitating entrance and check-in procedures, special equipment handling, patient safety procedures that include assisting patients in and out of the vehicle, and COVID protocol, such as PPC and disinfection processes.
With proper training related to wheelchairs, oxygen equipment, walkers and other special patient needs, a highly qualified valet attendant also can assist with transporting patients when hospitals are understaffed.
Getting valet down to a science
Healthcare valet programs continue to evolve as new technologies create more efficient and seamless experiences while helping parking owners and managers streamline their operations. Accelerated by the pandemic, people of all ages are more comfortable performing daily tasks through mobile devices and limiting physical contact with other people and their exposure to surfaces. With call-down service, guests can phone to request their vehicle will be ready to go ahead of time to reduce wait times.
A fully ticketless valet program is also available to eliminate the hassle of searching through pockets and purses for the valet ticket. During the arrival process, a guest provides a mobile number and receives the valet claim check number digitally via text message.
The valet team use chip-encoded reusable key tags and hanger tags to track and identify keys and vehicles. Besides being convenient for the guest, it is environmentally friendly and helps the valet operator improve revenue by eliminating internal theft and ticket skimming.
Touchless and mobile payments are already widespread in many self-park facilities, but these applications also can offer an improved valet parking experience. Touchless parking solutions allow guests to enter, pay and exit the facility safely and securely, eliminating time spent waiting in lines and reducing interactions with attendants.
Beyond the valet
Several value-added services go beyond traditional valet parking and can be part of a fully managed guest services program. These cover every touchpoint in the patient care journey, including arrivals, departures and transfers among departments.
More specifically, these services can include wheelchair transport, patient sitters who monitor higher-risk patients, pharmacy couriers for running infusion bags to different levels, and escorting patients, guests and family members through controlled points during construction. The entire program should be underscored with follow-up surveys to gauge how well the team performed and what, if anything, should be improved.
A comprehensive, well-run valet and guest services program can offer many benefits for hospitals, healthcare systems and medical office buildings. This ultimately helps drive HCAHPS improvements, reduces liability and provides the first step in creating a comfortable, healing healthcare facility environment with an elevated patient experience.
Rob Nonnweiler is vice president of operations, parking and guest services, for the healthcare industry with ABM. He is responsible for building client relationships, implementing regional market strategies, building the awareness of value-added services, nurturing organizational growth, and developing regional directors and operations managers.