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University of Iowa hospital to offer free patient parking

Visitors will see lower rates, too, in move to improve patient satisfaction

A car exits parking ramp 3 at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. The hospital on Dec. 3 will start offering free parking to patients at its main medical campus and lower parking rates for visitors. (The Gazette)
A car exits parking ramp 3 at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. The hospital on Dec. 3 will start offering free parking to patients at its main medical campus and lower parking rates for visitors. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on Dec. 3 will start offering free parking to patients on its main, expansive campus — a change that comes after years of patient gripes about how ramp rates add to already burdensome medical bills and hospital inconveniences.

In addition, the hospital is lowering parking rates for visitors in hopes of upping overall patient satisfaction — where the university has acknowledged it has room to improve, according to UIHC CEO Suresh Gunasekaran.

“Improving the parking experience at UI Hospitals and Clinics is essential to enhancing overall patient satisfaction,” Gunasekaran said in a statement. “We want our patients’ and visitors’ time here to be as positive as possible.”

The UIHC parking change will go into effect Dec. 3, when patients receiving care on the main campus adjacent to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City can get “patient parking passes” enabling them to park in any four of the ramps for free.

Patients can print passes from their MyChart accounts, or a clinic or unit clerk can print one for them.

They then must provide the pass to a parking cashier or a pay-in-line scanner on their way out of any of the four ramps. A one-time use bar code on each pass will waive any fee for one vehicle. The pass will be valid regardless of a patient’s length of stay.

The daily maximum rate currently is $10, and all parking fees and practices will remain in place until the Dec. 3 change.

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The free patient parking pass aligns the UIHC main campus with its off-site clinics — as in Coralville at Iowa River Landing and those on Scott Boulevard, North Dodge Street, and Sports Medicine on Prairie Meadow Drive, where parking already is free.

For visitors who are not receiving care, the main campus is offering a lower-cost option — with guests able to buy a $30 “visitor parking pass booklet” containing five passes limiting the maximum parking cost to $6 per parking ramp exit.

Visitors with a pass still must pay standard fees up to the $6 — with all costs beyond that waived.

The hope, according to UIHC, is the booklets will be especially helpful to visitors expecting to make multiple trips to see patients experiencing a prolonged stay.

In a statement, UI Parking and Transportation Director Debby Zumbach characterized the changes as “innovative and bold.”

“Partnering to deliver solutions that are better for patients and visitors, while reasonable for the university, is a win-win,” Zumbach said.

UIHC over the summer flagged concerns with lower-than-average patient satisfaction scores on a range of issues, from speed of service, to doctor communication, to room cleanliness, and noise level.

When asked to rate the hospital overall, 69 percent of respondents gave UIHC the highest 9 or 10, compared with an Iowa average of 79 percent and a national average of 73 percent.

Gunasekaran told The Gazette the hospital takes that feedback seriously.

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“It shows that we have room for improvement,” he said in August. “And we have a healthy appetite for improving.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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