By now, you've probably seen them—the hard to miss wall of bright orange Amazon lockers at your local supermarket or convenience store. But until recently, there's one place you wouldn't expect to spot one: a children's hospital.
Facing inefficiencies due to large numbers of deliveries for patients and staff arriving in its mailroom, Children's Health, Dallas decided to approach Amazon about installing their lockers inside the hospital.
"We recognized areas of need and problems that were affecting our patient families as well as our staff, and this became a solution that could help," says Keri Kaiser, senior vice president, chief experience and marketing officer at Children's Health. "It was almost one of those 'smack your forehead' moments—it was such an obvious answer we couldn't believe we hadn't thought of it before."
Carrying out the plan took patience, team approach
Though the idea seemed like a no-brainer, the logistical execution presented challenges. Chief among them: Amazon lockers are located almost exclusively in areas with access to the public. For security and safety, the lockers at Children's Health needed to be restricted to hospital families and staff. Kaiser says it took some time to convince Amazon to make the exception.
Once that hurdle was cleared, there were still internal logistics to consider, including security access for the delivery drivers and regulatory compliance concerns. The key to overcoming those challenges, according to Kaiser, was involving all stakeholders early in the process.
"Bringing everyone to the party really makes it better," Kaiser says. "Intuitively, everyone understood the need and the benefits, but it was about getting everyone comfortable with the idea within our priorities as a hospital."
Strong demand drives expansion of locker program
Children's Health rolled out the program with 42 Amazon lockers last September, and the response has been positive. The demand was so high the hospital more than doubled the number of lockers at its main campus this spring and has extended the program to its Children's Medical Center location in Plano, Texas, with 88 lockers placed there this year.
The lockers have facilitated more than 3,000 deliveries of mostly everyday items, according to Kaiser—including comfort food snacks, phone chargers and cozy socks. But she adds they are bringing much more to the patients and families who temporarily call the hospital their home.
"It always comes back to how we can help them have as much of their normal life as possible while they're inside our hospital setting, and being able to get things from Amazon is part of normal life," Kaiser says. "But it's also about the stuff—sometimes you just want soft, fuzzy socks. You didn't realize that was going to be the thing that gave you comfort."
Lockers provide benefits for hospital staff
Kaiser says the lockers have also been a huge hit with the hospital's staff. The COVID pandemic has exacerbated what are typically long, demanding work hours for health care workers—and it's often not feasible to receive package deliveries at home or get all their shopping done in person. She says the lockers represent a small, albeit much appreciated, employee perk.
"Sometimes it's not just about solving the big things; the true thoughtfulness is in really paying attention to their pain points," Kaiser says. "With their schedules and hours, things like holiday shopping and getting packages was clearly becoming an employee pain point-putting in lockers was a simple way to make their lives easier."
More on enhancing the patient experience: Children's Health opens hospital-based convenience store to aid patient families and staff during the pandemic.