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In Sickness and In Health

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

Hospital parking has long been an area of intense discussion among parking professionals across the U.K. Last month, the Department of Health issued a comprehensive parking guidelines document—a Health Technical Memoranda (HTMs) that gives comprehensive advice and guidance on the design, installation, and operation of specialized building and engineering technology used in the delivery of healthcare.

Its recommendations to healthcare parking facility managers include:

  • Consider installing pay-on-exit systems so drivers pay only for the time they have used.
  • Remember that you are responsible for the actions of private contractors who run parking lots on your behalf.
  • Avoid awarding contracts that are based on incentivizing issuing parking charge notices.

As a member of the British Parking Association (BPA), I find myself asking why it has taken so long for this document to have been created. As early as 2010, the BPA published its Healthcare Parking Charter, which aimed to strike the right balance between being fair to patients, visitors, and staff, ensuring facilities are managed effectively for the good of everyone.

The Charter, aimed at both managers of healthcare facilities and parking lot operators, emphasized the need to recognize the importance of parking policy in terms of the wider transport strategy and the need to manage traffic and parking in line with demand and environmental needs.

It also tackled that age-old conundrum linked to hospital parking: Free or not free?

While many people expect hospital parking to be free, the limits on space, costs involved, and demand for spaces means it needs to be managed properly. Often the most effective way to do this is by charging for parking.

I am pleased to see the issue of effective hospital parking policy finally get the recognition it deserves and am convinced that the work taking place in the U.K. could serve as a good blueprint for healthcare parking facility managers around the word.

Let me leave you with quotes from some recent press coverage that highlight the complexity of the situation:

The good:

Yeovil District Hospital has streamlined parking operations by removing the original barrier system at its main car park and replacing it with an ANPR system, to relieve congestion.

The ANPR system and its associated signage has been installed at two locations in the 145-space P1 car park in the car parks. A second car park (P2) has been created consisting of 43 spaces and three ambulance waiting zones. The system allows visitors a number of payment options including at a machine, phone payment or online. Card payments can also be made on site.

The bad:

Nursing staff have collected thousands of signatures on a petition calling for more parking provision at the soon to be opened £842m South Glasgow Hospitals campus.

Anne Thomson, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Senior Officer for Greater Glasgow, said: If nurses and others cant get to work in time for their shifts because parking and public transport are inadequate, the care the hospital offers will be undermined.

We have repeatedly pressed the health board and council for solutions to this, but with only a few weeks to go, our members still dont know how they are going to get to work. And some will have to set off the night before their 8.30am shift if they are to get to work on time via public transport, which is clearly ludicrous.

The ugly:

A Good Samaritan who drove a cancer patient to Queen Alexandra hospital was targeted by an overzealous parking attendant and slapped with a £100 parking fine. Wecock community volunteer Ann Waters took Gillian Patterson, her 67-year-old friend and neighbour, to the hospital for a consultation about ongoing treatment for bowel and breast cancer.

While they were waiting Ann realised the appointment could overrun, so she nipped back to their mini-van to buy additional parking time. But to her amazement she found she had already been issued with a parking notice despite the fact the ticket had not expired. The mini-van windscreen had a narrow black border around its edge, which had partly obscured a small part of the parking ticket. She asked for a copy of the photographic evidence, but the firm completely ignored her.

Unique Hospital Challenges

Wanda Brown

The goal for every hospital parking entity is to increase patient satisfaction. An article that ran in the Cambridge Times last fall clearly described what hospital parking professionals dread the most in their parking operations: unreliable parking equipment.

The delicate balance of collecting revenue while meeting patient expectations is crucial to our business. Therefore, each time a patient or his or her family visits our hospital, they must walk away with the same experience, which includes convenient access to parking and easy pay on exit. Of the many challenges hospital parking professionals encounter, the most common complaints stem from unreliable equipment. Every time an employee has to open a machine to make adjustments means a patron delay and possibly a rate change. Unfortunately, staff are often unable to offer refunds on-site.

Issues that may hamper a visitor’s ability to deal with a life or death situation require a great deal of out-of-the-box thinking. Strategic partnerships with various medical units are required to increase operational efficiency and meet expectations for each visit.

As we look a head, it is critical that we continue to build close relationships with our vendor partners and look to fellow members of IPI as resources for continued and sustain improvements.

What has been your greatest challenge and how did you address it? Comment below.

Parking and Surgeons

Isaiah Mouw

A recent medical study published in the British Medical Journal Open concluded that patients place as much importance on finding a parking space as their surgeon’s clinical ability. Let that sink in for a moment.

The study concluded that factors such as the parking experience, food quality, and cleanliness of the hospital are as important to the patients as the clinical skills of the surgeon. Researcher Colin Howie, a senior orthopedic consultant at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said, “The clinical skills of the surgeon were on a par with a parking space.” In other words, parking matters a great deal in hospital environments.

The hospitals found that patient (customer) satisfaction depended on issues outside of the surgery they were having. We in parking are not too surprised by the results of this survey as this customer service principle is true in almost every realm of parking sectors. A hotel guest’s valet parking experience at a five-star hotel will influence the guest’s customer satisfaction at that hotel and the hotel’s five-star rating. The first thing a visitor to a city must do is park. That parking transaction, whether on the street, in a garage, with a phone, or at a meter, will shape the visitor’s perception of that given city. The same goes for prospective students or parents of students visiting a university. Did the parents feel their child would be safe on that campus based on their parking garage experience? Parking is often a critical and powerful factor in a customer’s overall experience–not just their parking experience.

When our youngest son was born, he needed surgery. Boston Children’s Hospital had a world-renowned surgeon known for his work with the type of procedure our child needed. For us, this surgeon’s ability was infinitely more important to us than our parking experience or the cafeteria food. That being said, we will always remember the excellent customer service shown by the staff at the hospital. If you asked someone for help locating a certain place in the hospital, they didn’t just give you directions–they walked you there. The parking staff was also friendly and the parking garage used a kid-friendly, creative wayfinding system with pictures of animals. Children loved it and parents loved having help remembering where their car was.

The fact that hospital patients in this survey said that the parking experience was as important as the surgeon’s ability speaks volumes. Remember this and take pride in knowing that improving your parking services is usually going to help improve the customer’s overall day, not just their parking experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Roads Lead to Technology

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According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

Rx for Hospital Parking: Raise the Bar

Wanda Brown

Accessibility to healthcare services is the biggest concern of hospital parking professionals. Getting patrons to their appointments without parking stress is crucial. While maximizing operational efficiency through technological improvements is essential, parking professionals must also consider the effects on their customers as they consider implementation of new products. They can find the answer by examining companies such as Disney and Starbucks.

Ideally, patients and their families will be greeted with a smiling parking ambassador who is well prepared to educate them on the use of new equipment and provide directions to their hospital campus destinations. Customers will know they are valued because ambassadors have been trained to make each visit memorable. They are trained to know their customers, make them the priority for that moment, listen to what customers say, and be a valuable resource in handling parking issues quickly and sufficiently.

Unlike university campuses, where most customers are young and techno-savvy, hospitals have to plan for everything and everyone. Hospital patrons mirror the greater public and in creating a culture of care, parking professionals must consider all of their individual needs during every visit.

From the parking garage to the clinic appointment or visit, the customer should have a pleasant experience. Hospital parking professionals help with just that through the installation of way-finding systems, establishing cashiering stations, offering manned exit booths, and acting as parking ambassadors whose ultimate goal is to assist with the learning process.

Creating such an environment raises the bar for excellence in the parking experience. The parking professional knows that it takes the integration of both the human and technology factor to accomplish this. Has your operation raised its own bar? Comment below and share your story.