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By Donald Lightfoot, MBA, CEBS, IHM, CEO, Hospitality Wellness Group
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated many industries but the hospitality and travel businesses were particularly hard hit since people weren’t traveling. A 10-country study recently found that these industries must regain consumers’ trust by addressing issues related to health and safety. They need to fix “trust gaps” as they restart to ensure success in the COVID recovery.
With regard to the U.S. hospitality sector, the future looks bright with leisure travel expected to drive recovery but will depend on how the industry works to maintain the health and safety of their hotels, resorts and restaurants.
According to Chip Rogers, CEO of the prestigious American Hotel & Lodging Association, “The key to recovery and growth in our industry is communicating and delivering the enhanced health, safety, and cleanliness standards that guests can expect when visiting hotels.”
Addressing the number one concern of hotel guests — what happens when someone gets sick or injured – the virtual care solution is especially valuable amid the continuing challenges of COVID-19. Digital health also expanded access to essential health services during this time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How Digital Health Solutions Can Help with COVID Recovery
Currently, the only medical assistance offered a hotel guest is referral to an outside physician, which has liability issues for the hotel. Some digital health solutions offer a Hold Harmless Clause in their hospitality wellness programs with no liability for the hotel.
Physicians are not always available to visit guests and the cost of an in-person consult is extremely high, not to mention the loss of revenue with guests who are sick. In contrast, a virtual urgent care telehealth program with extensive medical information and, if needed, consults with a board-certified physician, is quick and convenient — and there are minimal costs to the guest and no cost to the hotel for this most asked for service.
During the pandemic, digital health was widely used across the world for the first time. It has become mainstream in accessing healthcare especially on vacation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that digital health tools have the vast potential to accurately diagnose and treat disease and enhance health care delivery for all.
Digital health solutions have been available in the hospitality industry for the decades but not until the pandemic did industry leaders see its potential for keeping guests healthy and safe and helping businesses to stay open. Overall, they can reduce inefficiencies, improve access, increase quality, provide personalized care and reduce costs.
The Future of Digital Health Solutions
Currently, the main issue is getting people tested and eventually vaccinated. Using digital health with either block chain, artificial intelligence and cloud technologies are important to ensuring guest health and safety.
Digital health passes, or “vaccine passports,” are being questioned as lawful or ethical, while 91% of travelers said they would be comfortable using them so they can hit the roads and airways again. Meanwhile, some hotel chains will require meeting attendees to show their digital health passes.
Older visitors, 55 and up, will be traveling the most since they are the ones who are heavily vaccinated. As a result, they need to rely on a digital health solution that can take care of their health needs while on vacation.
Regarding COVID, hotels do the testing but digital healthcare applications can diagnose COVID symptoms and take appropriate action to get the care the patients needs. With other issues, like heart problems, virtual providers can recommend going to the emergency room after hearing about symptoms related to a heart attack.
The hospitality industry can’t do hands-on activities to show they care about the health and safety of their guests but using the right digital health solution is best way right now. In addition, hotels, resorts and restaurants need to offer their guests and visitors a digital health solution to guarantee the success of their businesses in the future.
About Donald Lightfoot
Donald Lightfoot, founder and CEO, Hospitality Wellness Group, a healthcare senior marketing executive with over 30 years’ experience with major health insurance and benefit consulting firms. https://www.hospitalitywellnessgroup.org/