Providing critical comfort: Michigan Medicine Lodging removes barriers to patient care

November 18, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Michigan Medicine’s specialty care draws patients from all over the U.S. — and indeed, all over the globe.

So when someone from out of town visits the academic medical center, they often are looking for a place to stay. When that’s the case, in steps Michigan Medicine Lodging, the program that operates an on-site hotel and partners with others in the Ann Arbor area and other communities to provide lodging options for patients, families and friends.

It’s all in the name of comfort — both literally and logistically.

“Our goal is to make it easier and more equitable for families and loved ones to get care,” said Carly Noland, general manager of MM Lodging, which was formerly named the Accommodations Program. “If we can eliminate one aspect of uncertainty and restlessness for anyone, we’ve done our jobs.”

A three-pronged approach

MM Lodging falls under Community Health Services at Michigan Medicine and is made up of three major components. The first is the on-site hotel inside the main medical campus — Med Inn. The hotel has 30 rooms available to patients who have an appointment or surgery scheduled, family members who have a loved one in the ICU at Michigan Medicine and older adults who may need assistance.

In the interest of inclusion, Med Inn staff members came together for a quick photo while wearing masks.

“Med Inn fills up fast, as we are almost always operating at 100 percent capacity,” Noland said. In fact, her team recommends that visitors make reservations at least three weeks in advance. Those with less advance notice may be added to a daily waiting list.

The hotel itself is run by more than 15 team members, including housekeeping staff. A continental breakfast is offered each morning to guests.

“We want to make it as comfortable as possible, since we know these guests already have so many stressful things going on in their lives,” Noland said. “So if they’re able to stay right at the hospital, get a good night’s sleep and a meal in the morning, it tends to lessen the anxiety they are facing.”

Finding other accommodations

With the capacity limited to 30 rooms at Med Inn, many family members coming to Michigan Medicine may need to find outside accommodations. MM Lodging helps in that regard, as well.

The Patient Visitor Accommodation Program (PVAP) was created in 2006 to meet the growing demand for lodging beyond the capacity of the on-site Med Inn Hotel.

“We have six team members who help guests find rooms at reduced rates at 20 area hotels,” Noland said. The PVAP usually averages 600 individual reservations per month. In addition to increasing lodging capacity, it expanded Michigan Medicine’s lodging footprint to complement surgical center services offered in Livingston and Wayne counties.

No matter where they choose to stay, MM Lodging staff not only identify the hotels for them, but they follow through on all the logistics by contacting hotels directly and ensuring reservations are in place.

That level of care is not common at academic medical centers across the country.

“Often, a hospital may run their own hotel or have a relationship with various hotels in their city,” Noland said. “But rarely do they have both — nor do they have staff committed to following through on making reservations and relieving such burdens from those who will be coming to the hospital.”

Less costly, communal-style living

The Michigan Respite House (formerly known as the Michigan Transplant House) is a six-bedroom house located close to the medical campus.

The house includes shared space for cooking, relaxing or socializing with other guests. The bedrooms can accommodate either a single person or a patient and caregiver.

It is the least costly of the lodging options with a warm “home-like” quality.

‘We can help put people’s minds at ease’

Noland said there are a number of misconceptions about MM Lodging.

First, Med Inn is not a free service: “While the price is lower than many outside hotels, our guests tend to pay out of pocket to stay at Med Inn.” 

Those who can’t afford the service are referred to the Guest Assistance Program (GAP), which is run by the Department of Social Work, to determine if they are eligible for assistance.

“Like everyone at Michigan Medicine, we collaborate with other teams and departments to ensure our visitors have the best patient experience possible,” Noland said.

They collaborate outside the organization, too. For instance, there are a number of other lodging resources that aren’t connected to Michigan Medicine. The best known among them is the Ronald McDonald House — a nonprofit facility — located just across the street from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“Due to its proximity, a lot of our faculty and staff think the organization runs the Ronald McDonald House,” Noland said. “It doesn’t fall under our domain, though we sometimes refer visitors to them for a possible stay.”

In the end, MM Lodging sees itself as a vital cog in the patient and family experience at Michigan Medicine.

“We can help put people’s minds at ease or take a source of stress off their plate,” Noland said. “You can’t put a monetary figure on that service — and we’re extremely proud to offer it.” 

Do you have patients who could benefit from Michigan Medicine Lodging? You can refer them to the program by having them call 800-544-8684 or 734-936-0100 (local). The number is staffed from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily. More information can also be found on the MM Lodging website.