5 star service as standard: how seeing behind the scenes at a leading London hotel is complementing cancer care

“In every service setting, the customer must come first and their entire experience must be worth the journey.”

– Guy Reynolds, Chief Executive, Leaders in Oncology Care

Leaders in Oncology Care (LOC) is a specialist centre devoted to delivering innovative cancer treatments and exceptional patient care. LOC visitors often comment that the clinic doesn’t feel like a hospital, more like a luxury hotel. But this is not a story of style over substance. For the clinic runs very similarly to a hotel, too, with cancer patients booking into the treatment suite as if into a hotel room; and drugs made to order on site, much like a room service order placed to the kitchen.

These similarities immediately struck Uscreates, who had already worked with the clinic’s team to identify three areas to trial rapid improvement approaches:

  • Scheduling appointments;
  • Streamlining communications through reception;
  • And further optimising pharmacy services.

“We had the idea of taking LOC employees behind the scenes at a high end hotel, to explore the similarities and see what happens in the background to create a five star guest experience. The Landmark London Hotel gave us the opportunity, and it was a fantastic exercise – we had the Chief Executive there, clinicians, nurses, treatment suite coordinators, receptionists – the whole team, and you could see light bulbs going off from the second we stepped through the door” – Zoë Stanton, co-founding director, Uscreates.

On arrival, the LOC group was divided into three ‘task teams’, and each was met by a Landmark employee and guided to whichever part of the hotel best reflected their role at the clinic. Here are some of the results…

Experience not pathway

The ‘Scheduling’ team was shown how hotel bookings staff all use scripts for their conversations with guests so they get the same information every time and from any team member. Inspired by this, LOC has developed its own script, enabling Treatment Suite Coordinators (who manage patient flow) to phone patients the day before they receive Herceptin and check they are still able to attend their appointment. Patients receive clear information in advance, without a clinician having to run through checks on the day. The estimated time saving is 1 hour per treatment. With the clinic running 1,364 Herceptin Cycles per annum (2014 data), this amounts to a time saving of 2 days per week of patient time in the chair; and 1 nursing shift per week freed up for other patient care.

Landmark London Hotel guests’ stays are logged onto a system, to anticipate check-in and check-out times. “We capture as much information about a stay as possible”, explained Event Sales Manager Leah, “so we know that, if a guest is here for business and has a 7am flight, they are likely to check out early, allowing the room to be made up for the next arrival; or, if a guest is staying for a birthday break, they’ll probably take a slower pace, so we assume a later check-out for that room. By predicting how long guests might stay, we’re able to manage our rooms very efficiently.” Treatment Suite Coordinators now log patient arrival and departure times on MOSAIQ and the data are being collected comprehensively as standard to build a clear picture of patient treatment times and support accurate scheduling of appointments.Untitled2People not patients

“Whenever a guest checks in”, Guest Experience Manager Gautier Colin told the ‘Reception team’, “or phones to make a reservation, we capture detailed information, including a photo, so that we can build a guest profile. This means we know their likes and dislikes; but the photo bank also means that all of our team, from porters and cleaners through to managers, can greet each guest by their first name when they see them.”

Exactly this approach is now underway at LOC. With patients’ approval, a new photo bank is enabling a culture of familiarity to grow, meaning that patients and their families feel supported and cared for as individuals. The ‘Reception’ team has also put forward a business case for introducing an electronic switchboard akin to that at the Landmark. This will handle the huge number of calls currently processed by reception staff daily, freeing up valuable time for face-to-face interaction with patients and further helping familiarise themselves with names and faces.

The perfect recipe

 The Landmark deals with numerous food orders across multiple restaurants. An electronic system, preparation and communication together enable the right food to arrive with the right guests at the right time – still hot.

For a top hotel kitchen to run like clockwork, a lot of prep work is undertaken in advance. For instance, potato chips are hand cut in the morning to enable them to be cooked quickly on demand. Using the same principle, the LOC pharmacy has now started to pre-make the drug Paclitaxel the night before a patient’s visit to the clinic. This is ideal for pre-fabrication, as the dosage a patient receives tends not to change from week to week once treatment commences. Pre-fabrication means that, as soon as the patient arrives, the drugs are ready to go. The initiative is working well with a noticeable difference in turnaround time, reduced phone calls between nurses and pharmacy to check on drug development, and minimal wastage. Based on these strong results, pharmacy is now pre-making all treatments where possible. The only treatments which are not currently being pre-made are those that involve very high cost drugs, or treatments which are based on current body weight and require the patient to be weighed before the drug is manufactured.

The pharmacy team has also used the idea of the kitchen’s electronic order tracking system to enhance communication across the team. A dashboard shared by nurses and pharmacists has now been trialled which has reduced the number of phone calls (meaning fewer interruptions and less stress), and created better teamwork. Further enhancements are now underway to instigate a ‘real time’ tracking system, just as the Landmark’s waiting staff can see the progress of a food order while they are serving tables.


A thought for your work

Some of the most inspiring revelations from this work have been related to design – not opulent bowls of fruit or lavish curtains, but the key principles of people-focused solutions. These lessons are transferable to any health service setting, whether private or NHS, oncology or another specialty.

Find out more

If you want to know more about the power of design methodology in improving health, or for further information about this project, contact Uscreates’ Co-Director Zoe Stanton: zoe@uscreates.com

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