Healthcare Parking>Best Practices
Enhancing the patient experience and delivering patient centered care is a top priority for most hospitals and their leadership. High performing facilities are successful by delivering care which is coordinated, collaborative, and accessible and that focuses on the patients physical comfort and emotional well-being. On the national HCAHPS survey of patient perspectives, two global measures capture patients overall rating of the hospital on a 0-10 scale and whether they would recommend the hospital to family and friends. Hospitals with high patient-reported satisfaction scores have higher profitability.
Where most hospitals miss the mark is by assuming that the patient experience journey starts at reception, when in reality the patient experience starts while driving to the parking lot. The often overlooked arrival and departure experience outside the facility provides “low hanging fruit” where hospital leadership usually have many easy ways to make a positive impact for patients and visitors alike.
Conduct a Needs Analysis
Getting a handle on the patient experience in the parking lot should always start with a very simple needs analysis. Forget about a long, expensive and exhaustive parking research study from a parking & transportation engineer. Most hospitals can address their parking challenges by starting a conversation with a parking service operator who has an extensive background in hospitality and a strong culture of customer service. An effective analysis would include a few days of observation during peak appointment hours to monitor the patient parking experience. The observation should be accompanied by a patient survey from the hospital to help uncover valuable insights from the patient perspective and provide the team with some actionable data.
Common complaints about the arrival and departure experience at hospitals often include some or all of these:
- There were no parking spaces
- It takes too long to park
- Traffic in the parking lot made me late
- The parking was too far from the building entrance
- There was not enough ADA accessible parking
- The construction was disruptive
- The patient/visitor parking wasn’t clearly marked
- The drop off area was full of parking violators
While parking complaints are easy to identify, the underlying root causes are not always the same and may require some careful analysis to ensure the hospital and parking operator deploy the most effective solutions and strategies. The following services and strategies are what we would call “The Top 5” in terms of services which every hospital should consider to make an immediate positive impact on the patient experience.
To successfully accommodate both patients, visitors and employees, hospitals and healthcare facilities should plan for safe, efficient, and adequate vehicular access, egress, and on-site circulation with adequate queuing space at hospital driveways. To alleviate traffic circulation and access issues, parking directors can be deployed strategically in parking lots and driveways to help improve circulation, provide wayfinding advice and generally function as a goodwill ambassador. Parking directors can continually monitor parking space levels and direct patients and visitors to available space while closing off full parking sections to reduce unnecessary circulation in those lots. Parking directors are especially useful to help mitigate the effects of new construction on hospital campuses.
When it comes to making a great first and last impression on your patients and visitors,
providing valet parking service is a no-brainer. Among hospitals in California with at least 150 beds, over eighty percent of them already offer some level of valet parking services. Valet service solves many of the most common parking complaints by making parking faster, more convenient and accessible. This is especially important for the elderly and aging baby boomer population where mobility issues are more common. Having valet parking available at the busiest entrance points to the building means less missed appointments and patients who arrive for their appointments less frazzled. These same patients are then more likely to rate the hospital favorably on important patient satisfaction surveys.
Stack parking (also referred to as tandem parking) is a creative solution to help mitigate parking shortages and increase parking capacity. Stack parking is a hybrid between valet parking and parking directing and is most commonly deployed in hospital employee parking lots to help maximize the given space. Stack parking attendants are stationed within parking lots and take advantage of unused aisle parking space to double park vehicles while not impeding traffic circulation. Vehicles self park in open spaces and once a lot reaches capacity, they are directed to queue up in the aisles where they are greeted and issued a claim check. The attendants retain the keys to each vehicle in a lockbox and maneuver or repark each vehicle throughout the day as needed when self-parked vehicles leave the parking lot. Stack parking programs make the most sense when the parking lot configuration will allow for a net gain of at least 30% or more new parking spaces.
Employee Parking Management
Many patient/visitor parking complaints can be the result of a poorly managed employee parking population. Hospital employees will often abuse prime patient visitor parking spaces. This can create a parking shortage throughout the day and will trigger many of the most common patient complaints listed above. To counter this issue, it’s vital that a hospital have a solid employee parking program in place to ensure employees are parking in the appropriate areas. The elements of an employee parking program include
- Permit System – consider deploying a parking permit system which requires all employees to have a valid parking decal displayed. Employees can be assigned parking closest to where they work at the facility when possible.
- Buy-In – For employees to play by the rules and use appropriate parking areas, everyone must be on the same page. This means hospital leadership must play an active role in soliciting buy-in from the employees and promoting the program internally and aligning its purpose with the mission and values of the organization.
- Enforcement – Any employee parking program will require some level of enforcement to ensure compliance and ensure the integrity of the system for all. Heavy enforcement is required at the outset and can be tapered over time. At larger hospitals, enforcement technologies can be deployed including LPR (license plate recognition), citation issuance and online fulfillment of permits.
Hospitals with a shortage of on-site employee parking often resort to off-site “park and shuttle” programs to accommodate all employee parking. For hospitals with a large footprint, offering some type of courtesy shuttle or golf cart shuttle can also be an effective way to help self parking customers who would otherwise complain about ease of access and mobility issues during the arrival and departure experience. A parking operator who specializes in working with hospitals should have the expertise and licenses necessary to manage and operate a shuttle program.