CEO Gerard van Grinsven Explains How Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital Reinvents the Community Hospital

Henry Ford West Bloomfield (Mich.) Hospital, a 300-bed acute-care hospital and the newest facility of the Henry Ford Health System, opened in March after several years of planning. The hospital is intended to be a community wellness center, promoting wellness to all community members, rather than just treating the sick, according to West Bloomfield President and CEO Gerard van Grinsven.

Nearly every aspect of the hospital can be considered revolutionary, including the health system's choice of a leader to oversee the facility. Mr. van Grinsven came to West Bloomfield from Ritz Carlton, where he was the vice president of food and beverage for the international luxury hotel chain.

Mr. van Grinsven was recruited to the hotel by Henry Ford Health System President and CEO Nancy Schlichting, who envisioned a hospital that resembled the type of luxury facility Mr. van Grinsven was experienced in operating. "We wanted to create a hospital that could be described as a hotel for sick people. I was brought on as an outsider to challenge and advance the healthcare industry, and this hospital has become a model for that type of innovation," says Mr. van Grinsven.

The hospital aims to recreate the hospital experience into one focused on promoting wellbeing and healthy living. The hospital has already begun to realize its mission statement, which reads "to take health and healing beyond the boundaries of imagination." In just eight months since its opening, the hospital has launched several revolutionary programs that indeed seem more fitting for a luxury hotel than a community hospital. Of course, the hospital is greatly concerned with developing outstanding clinical programs. However, the areas where this hospital truly stands out from other great hospitals are non-clinical in nature.

So far, the hospital has been very successful in its efforts to transform healthcare. Since its opening, six major health systems including the Cleveland Clinic have visited the facility; patient satisfaction scores already have reached the 99th percentile; and the length of stay for the facility has been reduced by nearly one day. Both inpatient and outpatient volumes are strong and staff turnover is about 80 percent less of what is expected in new hospitals, according to Mr. van Grinsven

"Green" facility design mimics local surroundings
The first aspect of the hospital that visitors notice is different from other hospitals is its design. The hospital is located on 160 acres of woodlands and is designed to resemble a Northern Michigan lodge. The facility also features a retail "main street" which looks like an actual main street in a Northern Michigan town and includes stores focused on sleep, pregnancy, organic food and healthy cooking as well as a pharmacy.

Each patient room is private and designed to resemble a home bedroom, with curtains, warm colors and a window with a view of the woods of one of the hospital's three pavilions, says Mr. van Grinsven.

"We wanted to redesign the whole first impression that visitors have of a hospital. Normally a hospital can look cold and intimidating," he says. "We went to northern Michigan and took pictures of storefronts, and asked our architect to recreate that here."
Everything at the hospital shows a concern for sustainability. The hospital is LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council and features many "green" elements such as water-retentive plantings on the roof, which reduce heating and cooling costs; a rainwater garden for improved water quality; a comprehensive recycling system; and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.

The hospital also holds free concerts for the community and has already received nine wedding inquiries. In 2010, the hospital plans to create an 80-acre bike and walking path. "This all shows that the community doesn't see this as your typical community hospital. We can move away from that stigma and create a true community center for wellness," says Mr. van Grinsven.

Gourmet, organic food service
The area in which this hospital probably most widely differs from other hospitals is in its food service. Henry Ford brought in top Michigan chef Matt Prentice to transform traditional hospital food service. The hospital features 24-hour room service for patients, all of which is served by the hospital's on-site gourmet, organic restaurant, Henry's. All food served in the hospital is organic, promotes sustainable agriculture and, in many cases, is procured from local farmers. Although room service may seem a costly extravagance, it actually allows for more and better food choices, reduces waste and empowers patients, says Mr. van Grinsven.  

"If we really want to be community center for wellbeing, it starts with food. In the past, food was medicine in addition to just being food. Today it's killing us," he says. "We threw out all the deep fryers and freezers, except for a tiny one we use for sorbet."

Today, Henry's feeds more than 200 guests per day from the community who are not patients, family members of patients or employees of the hospital.

The hospital has expanded on its success by opening a 90-seat demonstration kitchen that offers classes on healthy cooking three times a week to members of the community. The hospital also plans to soon offer the first culinary institute for hospital cooks in partnership with a local culinary school, where the heads of hospital cafeterias across the country will come to learn about instituting organic, sustainable and healthy food programs at their facilities.

Integrated community wellness center

Henry Ford West Bloomfield also features a unique, integrated wellness center called Vita. Vita offers acupuncture, therapeutic message, yoga and relaxation classes, an aqua therapy suite, a spa and health coaches who provide lifestyle and exercise consultations. In addition to offering one-time services, the hospital offers memberships to community members to encourage frequent use of the center.

Moving forward

Hospital leadership will soon decide whether or not to move forward with plans to build additional private patient rooms to expand the hospital's inpatient capacity. The hospital has plans to expand the development of 80 of its 160 acres to create a premier wellness campus. The hospital also anticipates opening a state-of-the-art greenhouse as therapy for patients and to educate community members and schoolchildren about the value of sustainable architecture. For all of it, Mr. van Grinsven will be there to oversee the plans.

"When I joined Henry Ford I had some concerns about how I would be perceived by the clinical leadership and the physicians. I wasn't sure if they would accept me as an outsider. However, with any leader, it's ultimately about relationships," says Mr. van Grinsven. "For the first couple of months I worked very hard in creating relationships with all the physician-leaders and asking them to support me. They are not always 100 percent comfortable with the ideas we want to implement, but they are always willing to give them a chance. It has been an incredible journey, and I have absolutely no regrets."

Learn more about Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

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