Want A Latte With That Transfusion?

It might almost be worth getting sick. On May 1, Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago will open a $580 million facility that puts a whole new gloss on health-care reform. All 492 of the hospital's beds--including the 20 percent used by patients who are indigent or on Medicaid--will be in private rooms, with picture windows, art works and pullout sleepers for guests. The hallways are carpeted, and the lobby features, yes, a Starbucks. More to the point, 550 doctors now spread throughout the hospital's 22 buildings will be consolidated under one roof. Even more to the point, none of this, the hospital says, will cost patients or insurers extra.

Plenty of hospitals have put up fancy wings or spiffed up special floors for the likes of Saudi princes with prostate problems. But Northwestern is the latest, and glitziest, example of a nationwide trend: consolidating a mishmash of outdated medical facilities into a single building with customer-friendly service and accommodations that owe more to Mr. Hilton than to Dr. Kildare. (An I. M. Pei-designed hospital at UCLA will offer all patients food on demand, room-service style.) The American Hospital Association says hundreds of hospitals are replacing aging facilities. The efficiencies of the new hospitals should pay for their amenities, which should help attract patients in a fiercely competitive market.