U.S. hospitals compete for affluent immigrants with premium menus, revamped rooms, other extras

Published: May 16, 2014

Heart patient Nhan Luong eats a heart healthy lunch of chicken fried rice, vegetables, fruit and dessert Thursday, May 1, 2014, at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HOUSTON — When it comes to ordering meals at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, immigrant patients can choose from dishes similar to those they might eat at home: dumplings or noodles for Asian palates, curry to accommodate Indian tastes.

These and other choices at medical facilities across the U.S. reflect intense competition to attract one of health care’s most desirable demographics — affluent, foreign-born patients with generous insurance coverage or cash to pay out of pocket.

The menu is just part of the outreach. The Houston hospital also has redecorated patient rooms, subscribed to foreign-language TV channels and even changed the colour of hospital paperwork to reflect cultural preferences.

Hospitals “are recognizing that they have to begin to gear their services and products toward more minority populations,” said Rick DeFilippi, chairman of the board for the Institute for Diversity in Health Management, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association.

The effort to cater to minority and immigrant groups began decades ago in inner-city hospitals, but it’s now becoming crucial to private institutions’ quest for paying customers. Immigrants from China, Vietnam and India have median household incomes above the national average of about $51,300 — with immigrants from India earning more than double, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Memorial Hermann began its initiative in 2009 by reaching out to Vietnamese and Chinese patients, for whom language was a major barrier.

The program was so successful it was expanded to include South Asian patients, many from India and Pakistan. A new menu includes four types of curry, and the hospital now allows for the kind of large family gatherings many U.S. hospitals frown on.

A heart patient eats chicken fried rice Thursday, May 1, 2014, at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. Menu changes are one way to care for an increasingly diverse population that hails from regions once not typical to the Houston area. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

In California, the El Camino Hospital developed a South Asian Heart Center and a Chinese Health Initiative, emphasizing cultural sensitivity and prevention tailored to a community’s specific ailments, such as high blood pressure, hepatitis B and certain cancers.

The American Hospital Association believes such programs are key. It has set three goals for 2020 that include pushing hospitals nationwide to hold cultural sensitivity training for all employees and collecting data on illness and ethnicity to tailor medical care. The group also wants to ensure hospital administrations and boards better reflect populations they serve, DeFilippi said.

Dr. Jianwei Feng, a senior cardiologist at Memorial Hermann Southwest, remembers a Chinese immigrant who came to see him a few years ago complaining of chest pains. The patient, whose English was poor, put his palm between his chest and abdomen to indicate where it hurt. Doctors ran a series of abdominal tests and sent him home. He returned days later with a full-blown heart attack.

Incidents like that inspired Feng and hospital administrators to build the Asian program.

First, they hired interpreters, who now number about 80 hospital-wide. Then, they hired a physician liaison to work with doctors on referring patients from Houston’s nearby Chinatown, who Feng said now feel more comfortable referring their patients.

The changes mean that Tan Nguyen, a 60-year-old Houston man originally from Saigon, can recover from heart surgery while watching a Vietnamese news channel. He eyes the menu of dumplings and fried rice, and exclaims, “I love it.”

“I feel very comfortable,” Nguyen said. “It seems like home.”

When patients are comfortable and eat well, they heal better, Feng said.

At first, Memorial Hermann concentrated its efforts in one elderly ward. It had red walls, bamboo floors, large refrigerators for food brought by visitors and Chinese and Vietnamese TV channels.

Even the patient-information folders had to be right — white, associated with death in Asian culture, was out. Red, the colour of happiness, was in.

Water had to be room or tea temperature because Asians don’t drink cold water like Americans, said Bruce Luu, the physician liaison.

Managers soon expanded the services to the entire hospital, said Carla Kuaiwa, the administrator for Asian services.

When they decided to expand the program to include South Asians, they discovered different issues, she said.

Although many South Asians speak English, they have a cultural gap with Americans. Families want large visits. And the eldest son — not necessarily the patient — is often the decision-maker. Women sometimes don’t want a male doctor entering the room without permission or a female escort.

As an overture to the community, the hospital hosted a South Asian fair last summer, Kuaiwa said. Now they want to dedicate a corridor to the art, history and culture of these countries.

“We want to bring the culture to them here at the hospital,” she said.

——

Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP

07:50ET 16-05-14

[+]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Readers Comments (0)

Comments are closed.

Featured

attack on Parliament Hill

Soldier, gunman who died in Ottawa rampage identified (w/photos, video) [updated]

ANDREW DUFFY OTTAWA CITIZEN Updates at 5:10 p.m. Soldier killed in War Memorial confirmed as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo Suspect, reportedly Canadian-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed in Centre Block shootout Police call situation…
Continue Reading »

Parliament gunman shot

Shaken Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims calling from scene of Parliament shooting (w/photos, video)

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW OTTAWA — Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims and their New Democrat colleagues were in a party caucus meeting in Ottawa…
Continue Reading »

LIBERTY MEDAL

Stephen Harper cancels Malala Yousafzai citizenship ceremony in light of Ottawa shooting

THE CANADIAN PRESS TORONTO – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office says two scheduled events today in Toronto with Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai have…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

Parliament hill

Narendra Modi condemns ‘extremely disturbing’ Ottawa shootout

IANS New Delhi – Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Wednesday’s shootout near the Canadian parliament in Ottawa as “extremely disturbing”. “News of the attack in…
Continue Reading »

attack on Parliament Hill

Soldier, gunman who died in Ottawa rampage identified (w/photos, video) [updated]

ANDREW DUFFY OTTAWA CITIZEN Updates at 5:10 p.m. Soldier killed in War Memorial confirmed as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo Suspect, reportedly Canadian-born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, killed in Centre Block shootout Police call situation…
Continue Reading »

Parliament gunman shot

Shaken Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims calling from scene of Parliament shooting (w/photos, video)

TOM ZYTARUK SURREY NOW OTTAWA — Surrey MPs Jasbir Sandhu, Jinny Sims and their New Democrat colleagues were in a party caucus meeting in Ottawa…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Vancouver-Surrey-Festival-India

Diwali celebrations in Vancouver and Surrey

DiwaliFest celebrates its 11th anniversary from Oct. 17 to 26 at various sites in Surrey and Vancouver. Diwali Celebration Friday, Oct. 24 at Firehall Centre…
Continue Reading »

Facebook photo showing Martin Rouleau

Canada is Losing the Values War

UJJAL DOSANJH SPECIAL TO VANCOUVER DESI The dreaded happened in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a quiet historic town in Quebec. Many years ago I stayed there for a…
Continue Reading »

Butter Chicken

Light up Diwali with this delicious dinner: Butter Chicken, Basmati Rice with Peas, Chickpea Masala and Gulab Jamun

Indian festival is a fine reason for a feast BAL ARNESON POSTMEDIA NEWS Diwali is India’s biggest festival. People light candles and divas (small Indian…
Continue Reading »

INDIA-WILDLIFE-ELEPHANT

Heartbreaking photos of two elephants electrocuted in India

IANS Siliguri – Two elephants, including a female, were electrocuted in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district Saturday, an official said. The tuskers were found in a…
Continue Reading »

Aman Grewal

Gallery: Army officer’s wife wins Mrs. India Worldwide pageant

IANS New Delhi – Aman Grewal, wife of an army officer, was declared the winner of Haut.Monde Mrs.India Worldwide 2014 here. Grewal, who hails from…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Bollywood

Saif Ali Khan poses with pants down

IANS New Delhi – Actor-producer Saif Ali Khan was caught and clicked with his pants down while shooting for his new film “Happy Ending”. As…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood

Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt says ‘Going Home’ a special short film

IANS Mumbai – If the masses loved her in movies like “Highway” and “Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania”, Alia Bhatt has again won many a heart….
Continue Reading »

Priyanka Chopra

Why is Priyanka Chopra upset?

IANS Mumbai – Actress Priyanka Chopra had to cancel her pre-Diwali plans as she is down with an eye infection. And now she is fuming….
Continue Reading »