Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is giving patients the "VIP Treatment" an unlawful kickback?

Fierce Health Care has an interesting piece that smacks of kickbacks to patients.  Here is the article:
It's not just good care that will drive patients to hospitals, but customer loyalty programs and good service--or at least, that's what hospitals think who are getting in on the trend. As more hospitals aim to stay competitive, some are offering VIP (very important person) memberships that offer perks, such as free parking, wellness seminars and even organized social events, reported Kaiser Health News and The Washington Post.
For instance, Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills, Mich., in 2010 began issuing free VIP cards, which entitle holders to free parking, a 10 percent discount on nonprescription drugs at the outpatient pharmacy and the gift shop, restaurant discounts, service establishments such as an oil-change garage and financial perks for health seminars. Even more, VIP members get a free one-year membership to a program for people 50 and older for organized outings, including a trip to a Canadian casino, the article noted.
"In this day and age, with so much competition, you need to make a connection with patients," Lynn Anderson, Botsford Hospital marketing and public relations manager, said in the article.  Similarly, The New York Times yesterday reported that the lines between hospital and hotel could be blurring. For example, the luxury wing of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Weill Cornell Medical Center offers $2,400 suites and other luxury amenities, such as chefs and butlers to cater to affluent patient needs.
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For more information:
- read the KHN and Washington Post article
- read the NPR blog post

Related Articles:
Hospitals cater to wealthy patients despite safety net mission
Angling for donors, hospitals give VIP emergency treatment
Reward VIPs (very important patients), boost patient satisfaction
Concierge practices multiply as more docs drop Medicare

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