Hotel or medical centre? Switzerland combines both


As one of the most expensive countries in the world, Switzerland caters for wealthy medical tourists by offering specialist, high-quality treatments not readily available elsewhere.  Patients travel to Switzerland from Europe, Asia, USA and the Middle East. It receives clients from countries with rapidly growing middle classes such as Russia and China, the former Soviet states and the Gulf states.

The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, in eastern Switzerland, is both a five-star resort and a medical and wellness clinic.  With 60 years’ experience offering medical care and therapy, they position themselves as the ‘leading wellbeing and medical health resort’ in the country.  Claiming to offer "the finest art of rehabilitation", and exclusively targeting the 55+ age group, it is the most expensive private rehabilitation centre in Switzerland.

The Resort has 263 hotel rooms for leisure guests. For medical and wellness patients, it offers two types of medical services. The 17-room Clinic Bad Ragaz provides in-patient musculoskeletal and internal-oncological rehabilitation, while the Medical Health Center welcomes both clinical rehabilitation patients as well as walk-in patients.  To be eligible for a rehabilitation stay at the Clinic Bad Ragaz, the Resort says that a patient’s laboratory results must meet a certain threshold. If the results are below that threshold, patients are transferred to nearby partnering institutions until they are well enough to continue their rehabilitation. Surgeries for clinic guests are not performed in-house.

While revenue from the leisure guests is much larger than from healthcare patients, the Resort considers both the medical and the leisure elements as equally important. The attraction for many of their guests, they claim, is that customers value the practising doctors and therapists in the on-site medical health centre. The Resort says that Clinic demand is growing and that they are often fully booked.

So how does The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz maintain its success of blending high quality hospitality with medical services?

Professor Fred DeMicco, Peter Tschirky, and Martin Jeffrey have recently produced a research paper which takes an in-depth look at the unique design of the Resort. Using a systems model approach called Hospitality Bridging Healthcare (H2H ©), this team analyzed how the Resort provides an effective means for integrating the leisure hotel guest with the medical tourist guest in the same physical structure (in this case a medical resort or medical campus).  The leisure guests are located nearby, with healthcare/medical guest patients using the same facilities.

The paper suggests that, even though the Resort caters to an exclusive core clientele above the age of 55, the clinical and leisure divisions operate very effectively side by side, and provide an excellent basis for other institutions looking to build or implement similar business models.  A few examples of the successful design elements identified in the paper are covered below.

Medical and hotel resort design

The design of the physical building (e.g. medical resort) should not disrupt the key reasons for each guest or patient staying there.  The design must be universally accepted by each group, and allow for each to function independently of one another in a seamless environment yet share many of the same resort/medical resort services.

For example, the spa can be used for pleasure for the medical resort leisure guests, and simultaneously for rehabilitation guests.  Through the innovative design elements used at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, each group is independent of one another, and will not know the main reasons why other groups of guests are there (e.g. either for leisure/pleasure vs. for medical reasons or both, as in medical tourism).

There are distinct guest management processes at the Resort for both groups which include check-in and transportation (to medical procedures, dining, transportation, staff training, communications, and rehabilitation in the spa).  There are also separate hallways and paths for the Tamina Therme (the thermal water pool and spa), the restaurants and the entertainment.

Although in the same building, the top five floors are part of the leisure hotel complex while the lower four floors are clinic hotel rooms. The clinic wing itself with its medical equipment is outside the hotel building. There are separate entrances, different signage in the building and independent bed and guest elevators for the clinical wing.

Check-in processes and separating guests

Resort guests check-in and head to a designated desk. Leisure guests check-in with resort associates at the Leisure Front Desk, while medical guests arrive at the Resort and talk to medical and wellness associates at the Admissions Front Desk at the other resort entrance.

Unless they are self-mobile, the clinic guests are not visible on the hotel side. As soon as the clinic guests feel fit enough the hotel amenities such as swimming pool and restaurants can be used. Should a clinic guest cross paths with a hotel guest then it is only, the Resort says, because both are looking for medical treatments, which means the difference between clinic and hotel guest is less apparent.

Clinic patients have a list of individual resort options to preserve their privacy.

Room re-design for medical guests

It is a misconception to think that hotel rooms can easily be modified for clinic patients, which was a lesson for the Resort when they created their clinic rooms. An initial soft redesign led to patients not having a good sense of wellbeing because the level of comfort was simply not enough. For example the beds, although height adjustable, were never adequate due to an incorrect mattress. Secondly, it was not possible for these beds to work with a hydraulic lift, vital for bedridden patients. The entire bathroom concept also had to be redesigned, as in Switzerland there is a differentiation between normal, disabled and wheelchair compatible rooms. The Resort decided to make half the clinic rooms compatible for guests with walking disabilities and the other half wheelchair compatible (i.e. fully supportive for a person needing to do everything from a sitting position).

A clinic bedroom in the Resort

Feedback, monitoring and quality control

All guests, medical or leisure, share their feedback about the resort experience via an established feedback center. This communication channel is critical for the success of the Resort and continuous improvement and refinement is based on the collected feedback from all participating guests.

The Resort has found, by operating in such a hybrid leisure-medical environment, that it is of utmost importance to maintain the perceptual balance between ‘healthy’ and ‘sick’. This balancing act has to be constantly monitored, redefined, sustained and above all implemented.

Professor Frederick J. DeMicco, Ph.D., RD is a visiting scholar in the Masters of Tourism Management programme in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, and editor of Medical Tourism: Hospitality Bridging Healthcare (H2H) and Wellness, published by Apple Academic Press.;



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