Hospital Thoughts

Hospital CEO Paul Levy is seeking responses to some remarkably frank comments on competition in the hospital industry:

…Please remember that health care is not like other industries, in which companies are rewarded in the marketplace for being the high-quality, low-cost provider. That situation does not yet exist in the health care system. So, am I better off being a industry leader with regard to that approach, or am I better off biding my time and continuing to follow the traditional path until there is a real sign of change in the marketplace?

As I’ve written before, this kind of openness is refreshing and potentially a brilliant business strategy. (It may continue to be so even once every one is doing it.)

Paul’s comments and receptivity to feedback remind me of my numerous concerns about Children’s Hospital Boston, which, as far as I know, has no analogous public forum. I’ve sent in comment cards, but they may just drop into a black hole.

Two principal complaints about Children’s Hospital: television and food. There are TVs everywhere, including in the waiting rooms. They are always on, even if no one is watching them. On one occasion, we were the only ones in the waiting room. When we attempted to turn the TV off, the staff told us we couldn’t. When we went in examination rooms and our daughter was unhappy, the first response by the medical staff was often to turn on a TV.

Our daughter (just over two years old) has never watched TV, and doesn’t find it comforting. Research indicates that TV is not good for young kids, and especially not infants:

Babies are glued to television sets these days, with 40 percent of 3-month- olds and 90 percent of 2-year-olds regularly watching TV, according to a University of Washington study released Monday.

…”While appropriate television viewing at the right age can be helpful for both children and parents, excessive viewing before age 3 has been shown to be associated with problems of attention control, aggressive behavior and poor cognitive development,” Frederick Zimmerman, the UW study’s lead author, said in a news release….

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for children younger than 2, and only one to two hours a day of quality programming for older children.

Recently, we had to stay over in the hospital for a night. There were no private rooms available, so we requested at least not to be stuck in a room where the TV would always be on. They looked at us like we were from Mars. (In the end, our roommate’s TV was always on. The three month old patient didn’t care, but his private nurse wanted to watch TV.)

Why is a pediatric healthcare facility encouraging TV for infants?

The food complaint is similar: so much of the hospital food provided for children is high in fat, refined sugar, white flour, and artificial ingredients. I was looking for a fruit-juice popsicle for our daughter (what she eats at home), and the only options the hospital could offer had high glucose corn syrup as the first ingredient after water. Again, this is not rocket science — these are not appropriate foods for one- and two-year old children.

I realize in both cases (TV and food), the hospital is just mirroring popular culture in an attempt to provide familiarity for most kids, but I wish they would at least provide an option for those families whose kids don’t watch TV and eat a high-sugar diet.

1 comment

  1. Tony Jun 10

    Not to sound unsympathetic, because that’s far from the case. However, in this case, when the Least Common Denominator covers over 90% of the population, it’s not cost-effective for the hospital to provide anything else. Paul Levy aside, hospitals are still businesses, and are not at all in the business of making people healthy in the absence of profit.

    That said, I am rather disillusioned and afraid for the prospects of my own on-the-way children that the so-called “healthy places” are providing them with no options other than obesity- and hyperactivity-inducing “food” and “activities.” Has this been the case with all the hospitals or only with this particular one?

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