How a Texas Hospital Made Parking a Customer Oriented System
The first question we asked Frank Castro, head of parking and transportation at Children’s Health in Dallas was. Why spend so much money in updating the parking facilities at the hospital?
Why spend so much money
in updating the parking facilities
at the hospital?
His answer was unequivocal. “We want to make the parking experience at Children’s Health as seamless, easy, and uncomplicated for all our customers, employees and visitors alike.”
As we walked around the parking structures with their LPR entrance lanes and parking guidance systems, Castro stressed that parking operations, particularly in hospitals, need to know just who their customers are. They aren’t limited to visitors but include nurses, staff, and doctors.
Under the leadership of Castro and his staff, Children’s Health has reinvented its parking operation to focus on those who are parking.
Visitors are critical, Castro said. An extremely user-friendly valet system at the front entrance (along with highly trained and customer oriented staff) allows those who wish to use their smart phones to track and pay for their cars that have been valeted. PT was most impressed that the staff simply asked for my cell number as I drove up, told me to take my time, and to leave the window open.
We sat in our car for about 20 minutes while waiting for our meeting time and were only asked to move when a spot nearby opened. We received a text message with all information we needed to pay my parking fee and recall the car when I needed it. It was easy to use and complete. When my car was returned, all the windows were open (to allow the car to be cool in the hot Dallas summer) and it was ready to go.
For those that wish to self-park, they pull a ticket, have it validated, then pay at a POF if required. At the current time, virtually all parkers are free with validation. The vehicle’s license number is connected to the ticket, so after validation, exit is seamless.
The parking staff worked with the hospital’s IT department and the technology vendor to enable employees and doctors license numbers to be automatically input into the parking system and to be automatically updated when additions or changes are made. This is extremely important as they are dealing with nearly 15,000 employees that need to be entered and updated.
There are 18 EV charging stations in the three main garages. One section is limited to Tesla charging, as the EV giant has assisted in the installation of the charging devices. They were all full when we toured the facility. Castro noted that the charging stations were ‘free’ charging units to patients and employees, and the guidance system would notify the parking office when the charge time was complete. If the vehicle wasn’t moved, the parking crew could check the license number (through the parking guidance system) and notify the vehicle owner to move their car.
Perhaps the most visible portion of the parking system is the parking guidance system. It is video driven so vehicles can be tracked if necessary. In addition to the tradition red and green lights, denoting taken and open spaces, and blue indicating handicapped spaces, amber lights mark spots reserved for VIPs.
“If we have a board member or other VIP arriving on a certain day at a certain time. We input their license plate and notify them to enter a certain lane. When they enter, they can see an open spot (marked amber) and drive directly to their parking space,“ notes Castro. “It’s a little thing, but those little things make a difference.”
Extra large displays on the POF machines and at exit lanes allow the hospital to communicate with visitors and staff with fully programmable high-tech messaging.
“Our parking system is a work in progress,” Says Castro. “We didn’t just install some tech and flip a switch. A system this complex means we had to work closely with the technology integrator, the manufacturers, our IT department, and the staff as well.”
“The goal of the IT department,” said Bradley Mayes Manager IT Business Systems “was to ensure as seamless an integration as possible between the existing hospital databases and the parking system. Far too often IT departments forget they are here to service their clients and need to understand the issues involved and resolve them. It was extremely important that the data be entered once and then populated across all the appropriate systems. We were excited to be involved in the process from the beginning and to work with the tech suppliers to ensure that the software meshed at all levels.”
“When people visit a hospital, they are already stressed,” says Castro. “Our goal is to not add to that stress, but to help remove some of the pain the visitor brings with them. Yes, the project is costly, but it is worth it.”
Since its beginnings in 1913 as a baby camp, Children’s Health had a long-standing commitment to its community that includes not only high-quality patient care, but also advocacy, education and preventive care with an unwavering focus on its mission. More than a hundred years later, Children’s Health has grown to become the only academic health care system in North Texas dedicated exclusively to the care of children from birth to adulthood through its nearly sixty-year affiliation with a world-class medical school and research institute at UT Southwestern. Working together, they are pioneering research and breakthroughs in pediatric cancer, heart and liver disease, organ transplants, cerebrovascular disease, regenerative medicine, and metabolism.
Today, children and families facing complex medical conditions travel from all over the world to visit its Dallas campus, which includes Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the Children’s Health flagship hospital and one of the top pediatric hospitals in the nation.
The hospital will expand its parking program to include its campus in Plano, TX.
Children’s Health worked with Nexgen Parking LLC as the system integrator, Designa for the Parcs equipment and Quercus for the LPR and parking guidance.