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Editorial: It's healthy for business

September 04, 2010

Though few of us like to consider the business aspects of health care, they are many, and it's nice when a hospital treats its customers, er, patients, with their cultural identities in mind. Hoag Hospital Irvine, which opened last week in the remodeled space that once belonged to Irvine Regional Medical Center, is built around serving the community's diverse population.

It makes good business sense, in that some insured patients often have a choice of where they will seek care and can easily go elsewhere, but it also makes for good health care because it shows the doctors, nurses and administrators at Hoag are willing to listen to their patients, no matter their native tongues.

The new hospital along Sand Canyon Drive is tailored in ways big and small to serve Irvine's demographic mix, which is 40% Asian, much of it immigrant or first generation.

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Hoag Irvine eschews offering a fourth floor, as the No. 4 is unlucky in Chinese culture. It offers several references to nature, which is viewed as healing in many cultures. There are feng-shui patient rooms. Steamed rice is available for breakfast.

And the staff that has been instructed to act formally with patients uncomfortable with more casual Occidental doctor-patient relationships.

The hospital is reaching out to not only Irvine's Japanese, Koreans and Chinese, but to those from Iran and other parts of the Middle East. This is new territory for Hoag, considering its client base in Newport Beach, which is about 90% white. Knowing that it wasn't enough to open the doors and slap a Hoag sign on Irvine Regional, administrators made it a point to not only make over the hospital but to learn about and reach out to the new patient populations it will serve.

"Health care's not just about your clinical ability. You've got to do it in a way that connects with patients," Robert Braithwaite, Hoag Irvine's chief administrator, told the Daily Pilot. "That means understanding their cultural heritage and how they want you to communicate."

And good communication should mean better care.

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