HOSPITALITY FOR GOODNESS' SAKE

In Rochester, MN, Kahler Hotels and the Mayo Clinic offer a customized blend of hospitality and medical care called “healthtel.” Many of the hundreds of thousands of patients the clinic treats each year stay in one of the Kahler hotels, making this small city in the southeastern part of the state a company town that blurs the distinction between hospitality and hospital.

“Health tourism” is booming at the Kahler Grand Hotel, the International Hotel, Kahler Inn & Suites, the Holiday Inn Express Rochester, the Marriott Rochester at Mayo Clinic, and the Residence Inn Rochester Downtown. All are linked directly to the Mayo Clinic, and retail, a pharmacy, roomservice and specialized health care are a telephone button away. All but the Holiday Inn are owned by Sunstone Hotel Investors.

Behind the concept of “healthtel” is “a service attitude,” says Bruce Fairchild, regional director of operations for Sunstone. “It's being prepared to respond to a wide variety of needs that Mayo patients might have while staying at our hotel.”

Hotel staff must be trained to take care of guests “coming for a very serious condition or coming back because they had such great care before,” says Fairchild. Some demand confidentiality and don't want their condition discussed; other guests need to vent. “Some of the things they face can be scary,” Fairchild says.

At the Kahler Grand and the International, a 19-room, all-suite luxury “hotel within a hotel,” staff works with the Mayo Clinic to offer a special diet and is ready to provide an unusual degree of help. “Because a lot of our guests are sick, we respond to a lot of medical requests,” Fairchild says. “Our staff is very well trained; if somebody calls for an ambulance, we're going to direct the ambulance staff to the room. In one severe case last month, I had a bellman actually resuscitate somebody; he started CPR on the patient before we were able to get the ambulance to him.”

Among the amenities at the International, a deluxe hotel on the concierge level of the Kahler Grand: Ask Mayo buttons on the phone so guests can dial the clinic directly and speak to a nurse who can “advise them, call an ambulance, change an appointment — basically do triage for the guest.”

The Kahler Grand feels like “one of the grand old hotels,” Fairchild says. “It's much more upbeat than I expected. People are happy to be here because they get such tremendous care at the clinic. It's wonderful to be taking care of people who need to be taken care of.”

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