Hospitals

Cleveland Clinic hotel on main campus undergoes ‘wellness’ renovation

Banking on a continuation of the medical tourism trend, a hotel on Cleveland Clinic‘s main campus is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that’ll transform it into a “wellness hotel.” The InterContinental Suites Hotel‘s nine-month-long renovation project is scheduled to wrap up this week and will create what appears to be Ohio’s only wellness hotel associated with […]

Banking on a continuation of the medical tourism trend, a hotel on Cleveland Clinic‘s main campus is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation that’ll transform it into a “wellness hotel.”

The InterContinental Suites Hotel‘s nine-month-long renovation project is scheduled to wrap up this week and will create what appears to be Ohio’s only wellness hotel associated with a hospital. The new buildout involves several typical aspects of a hotel renovation — improvements to the lobby, public spaces, guest rooms and fitness center, the addition of soft lighting, soothing music and a muted color palette — but the difference is that nearly all the 162-room InterContinental’s changes are done with the intention of helping guests enhance health and wellness.

“We know that many people staying in our hotel are coming to visit the Clinic,” said Craig Campbell, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “They’re typically getting a message from their doctor  that says ‘You need to make some lifestyle changes.’ We want to help support that.”

The hotel’s new wellness focus figures to be a boon to both the Clinic and the InterContinental. For the Clinic, it could help in recruiting wealthy patients who want to stay in a hotel that’s more overtly focused on helping them develop healthy habits. For the InterContinental, attaching the Clinic’s name to the hotel helps provide credibility to its new wellness operations. (Campbell also acknowledged that part of the reason for the transformation was simply to differentiate the two InterContinental hotels on the Clinic’s campus.)

“When you’ve got a premier facility like Cleveland Clinic, it’s a great marketing tool to take advantage of ,” said Joseph McInerney, CEO of trade group the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

The InterContinental aims to let guests know they’re in a wellness hotel as soon as they arrive. A doorman will direct guests to a “wellness station” that includes cold beverages and cold towels in the summer, for example. But the biggest wellness enhancements will become apparent once guests arrive in their rooms. The InterContinental is adding several small features to guest rooms that aren’t often found together in hotels that don’t attach “wellness” to their missions. Those include:

  • Keypad-enabled door entry that’ll make it easier for elderly patients to access their rooms — no keys or key cards
  • A fold-out couch to give caregivers accompanying patients a place to sleep
  • Reclining upright chairs for patients who can’t lay flat post-surgery
  • Refrigerators with freezers for medicine that needs to remain especially cold
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While none of those enhancements are groundbreaking in and of themselves, they figure to make sick or recovering patients more comfortable. A more dramatic change will come in the form of 13 new anti-allergy “pure rooms” that will make up half of one floor. The rooms feature air purifiers and  antibacterial-substance “shielding,” all hard surfaces and hypoallergenic encasements on beds and pillows. Staff had to be trained on specific procedures for maintaining the room’s hypoallergenic, antibacterial state, Campbell said.

Other additions include a refurbished restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine, a gift shop with items from the Clinic’s 360-5 wellness program and access to Cleveland Clinic services like acupuncture and massage therapy.

Guests will also be able to check out from the front desk a small, handheld device called the emWave, which measures users’ stress levels and aims to train them on ways to reduce their stress.

“There are a lot of hotels that have certain aspects that could be classified as wellness services, but there are few that have created a full 360-degree wellness hotel where every aspect is devoted toward enhancing the wellness of guests,” Campbell said.

That may very well be true, but it’s hard to verify, as numbers on wellness hotels are difficult to come by. There’s no official industry-wide definition of exactly what constitutes a wellness hotel, so the American Hotel & Lodging Association has no comprehensive data on the topic, said Tamika Figgs, the group’s research manager.

In Ohio, at least, wellness hotels connected to hospitals are a rarity. Ohio Hospital Association officials aren’t aware of any other hospitals in the state that are marketing nearby hotels as wellness hotels, a spokeswoman said. A spokeswoman for the Ohio Hotels & Lodging Association didn’t return a call.

Certainly, the rise of wellness hotels, also called healthtels, is inextricably linked to medical tourism, which traces its history in the U.S. back at least to the 1920s, when Mayo Clinic‘s Kahler Grand Hotel was established. The trends driving medical tourism — an aging population, an increasing focus on health, advances in medical technology — are essentially the same factors behind the growth of the healthcare economy in general.

There’s nothing stopping hotel operators from establishing wellness hotels without close proximity to hospitals and medical centers, but that approach is less likely to succeed, McInerney said.

“You need to have a medical affiliate if you’re a wellness center,” he said. “You need that Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.”