Technology and an aging population blend hotel, health-care industries

Just as hospitals now find themselves working to improve their patients’ experience (in addition to their health care), so does the lodging industry find itself managing spas and other facilities that require a focus on guest health. To make matters more interesting, both industries are facing what has been called the “gray wave,” the millions of aging baby boomers who will demand excellence in both health care and lodging experiences.

Increasingly, this will occur in the same facility, such as a senior living residence with multiple levels of both health care and living facilities. Add to this the rapidly changing regulatory and legal environment, with the result that both industries are working hard to innovate their business procedures.

The logical response to this reality is for the two industries to share ideas and to adapt and cross-pollinate their best practices. That is exactly what happened at the Cornell Symposium on Hospitality, Health, and Design at Cornell University on Oct. 9 through 11. The symposium was the first of its kind, and was produced by Cornell’s Institute for Health Futures, which was created to encourage cooperation of the health care and hospitality industries. This symposium allowed industry practitioners and academic researchers from both the hospitality and health care industries to focus on the issues that the two industries have in common, and highlight ways for the two to benefit each other.


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New industry segments have already arisen as a result of this developing interface of hospitality and health care. These include senior housing and care, wellness and medical tourism, and concierge medicine. The intersection between the two industries includes a wide variety of aspects, including facility design, the patient or guest experience, and the vital importance of human resources in patient or guest satisfaction. Overshadowing all of these issues are two issues: the aging baby boomers and rapidly changing technology. 

The Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures itself is just a year old, created as a partnership between Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration and the College of Human Ecology. At its inception, the institute became the first academic center in the country to focus on improving service in health care, wellness and senior living by combining aspects of hospitality, environmental design, and health policy and management. The fact that the institute—and the symposium—involves so many diverse fields is a clear indication of the complexities faced by these industries. In that light, we also see a strong desire by industry practitioners to address these issues and improve their services.

Glenn Withiam directs publications at The Center for Hospitality Research at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. Contact him at [email protected].

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