Should Hospitals Be Like Hotels? Q&A With Gerard van Grinsven, CEO of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

In an increasingly competitive healthcare environment, hospitals and health systems are seeking ways to differentiate themselves and attract patients. One strategy that has gained momentum is offering hotel-like amenities, such as large, private rooms and massage therapy.

Gerard van Grinsven of Henry Ford West Bloomfield discusses wellness services.Gerard van Grinsven, president and CEO of Henry Ford West Bloomfield (Mich.) Hospital, emphasizes the importance of these amenities and wellness services to patient-centered care. Amenities and wellness services at Henry Ford West Bloomfield include 24-hour room service, flat-screen TVs and food made to order. In September, the hospital opened an organic hydroponic greenhouse that provides fresh food for the hospital. 

His focus on offering special amenities was inspired in part from his more than 25 years of experience in luxury hospitality. He served as vice president and area general manager for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in Dearborn, Mich., and as vice president and area general manager of The Ritz-Carlton hotels in Cleveland, St. Louis and Philadelphia before joining Henry Ford in 2006.

Here, Mr. van Grinsven explains how wellness services enable the hospital to care for the whole patient.

Question: Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital has several luxury services and amenities. What is your overall goal for these services?

Gerard van Grinsven: The overall goal for our diverse amount of wellness services is to answer the unexpressed wishes and needs of our customers — who are our patients, their families, our employees and the community. I would like to clarify that our services are designed to enhance the patient experience and aid in the healing process. Our offerings are not luxury services; they are wellness services. Whether it is health coaching or acupuncture through Vita, the wellness center, a visit by our patient concierge, a cooking class designed to educate patients on their conditions or a visit to our therapeutic organic greenhouse — they all have one purpose: to deliver an experience that transforms lives and communities through health and wellness, one person at a time.

The facility was built with the intention of taking health and healing beyond the boundaries of imagination by combining the best clinical care with the most innovative, comprehensive wellness philosophy, for our patients, their families and the communities we serve.

Q: How has your experience working at The Ritz Carlton influenced your vision for Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital?

GvG: It has allowed me to fully develop my skills in listening to the voice of the customer. Both industries are about developing relationships and creating memorable experiences for your customers. I also see many parallels between a hospital and a hotel. For instance, you dine at both places, stay at both places and sleep at both places. So why should the experience be all that much different? Our hospital is a destination for people that are ill or well. We want all our guests to feel like they want to come here, instead of feeling like they have to come here. To achieve this, we have offerings to enliven the senses and provide a healing environment, creating a community center for well-being.

The Ritz Carlton also is a talent-based organization. That is an element that I encouraged utilizing here, and it has been instrumental to our success. We use a scientifically based interviewing process that goes beyond skills and experience. It looks at natural talent. It looks past a resume, and instead searches for answers about an aptitude for compassionate care, ability to be an innovator and passion for thinking in different and unique ways. I believe building a talent-based staff is crucial to any organization, and the results show in our patient and staff engagement. As a two-time Baldrige winner with The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, it only made sense to use the Baldrige criteria to help frame the leadership structures of our hospital, which are all centered around the customer.

But since I had never worked in healthcare, many people were interested in how an hotelier could make the transition. My first step was to surround myself with incredible clinical leaders. The Henry Ford Medical Group is one of the largest physician groups in the country. It is full of incredible talent and remarkable skills, which aided in my transition. In addition, we created relationships with outstanding private physicians in our community to complement the HFMG. Having the foundation of great clinical programs and services allowed me to utilize my talents in creating an environment of service excellence in surprising and delighting our customers. We created activities and programs to assist our communities in living healthier lives. We would redefine the delivery of healthcare by establishing a community center for well-being, bringing a new integration of clinical excellence, technology, patient safety and wellness programs to the Midwest and beyond.

This means we would need to build an incredible environment where healthy people want to be. Where they would want to take classes and participate in their health. We wanted an environment that would be a healing campus, surrounded by influences in nature. That included building the hospital with only private inpatient rooms. Studies have shown that not only does this help with the healing of the patient, but it reduces infection significantly. To add to this comfort, we eliminated overhead paging, and we do not wake our patients from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Examples like this, plus our outstanding clinical care, resulted in the customer being in the center of all that we do.

Q: How have the hospital's non-traditional services, such as yoga classes and fresh, to-order food, affected the hospital in terms of patient satisfaction, quality outcomes and finances?

GvG: To summarize, all of these innovative elements contribute to the overall patient experience and lead to market distinction and a loyal consumer base. But beyond that, it is the right thing to do. We are providing education for a healthier life. We are offering clinical excellence with holistic therapies to treat the mind, body and spirit. And our results show that these measures work.

Since opening, we have consistently been in the 99th percentile for Top Box (top score of 5) Likelihood to Recommend as compared to Southeast Michigan hospitals, [according to the] Press Ganey database. We believe these wellness services have helped us establish an environment where our patients truly feel we are caring for them holistically.

Our hospital became cash flow positive a year ahead of schedule. We have outperformed our net income budget every year since opening. We have increased volume every month since opening in March 2009, and increased market share each year in an economy that was in a downward spiral and in a market that is shrinking in population.

The decision to become a talent-based organization had a significant impact on reduced turnover, excellent employee engagement, reduction of harm, outstanding customer engagement scores and subsequently positive financial results.

Our organizational model has gone through extensive review in the last few years and continues to prove itself. First, in July 2010 Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital achieved ISO 9001:2008 certification. [The International Organization for Standardization] is an internationally recognized standards organization that establishes standards that ensure products/services are safe, reliable and of good quality. We continue to be surveyed for compliance with these standards annually, along with our [Det Norske Veritas] accreditation for hospitals. Secondly, we participated in the system-wide efforts and site visit that led to Henry Ford Health System winning the 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. To achieve this award, our leadership model, performance measures and clinical quality were scrutinized. In addition, they also reviewed and praised our efforts along the line of performance improvement and innovation.

Q: How does the hospital's approach to care — including wellness-focused services and higher-end services — align with healthcare reform goals of population health management and value-based care?

GvG: Many of the wellness-focused services are well aligned with the healthcare reform goals of population health management. Henry Ford West Bloomfield's approach to focusing on optimizing the health status of our patients, pre- and/or post-hospitalization, will help to reduce the overall cost of healthcare. For example, we have cooking classes specifically targeted to those individuals with diabetes, cancer and heart disease. We provide health coaching and exercise programs to enhance fitness and functional status. Essentially we inspire and assist patients in changing their lifestyles to improve the key risk factors which drive their chronic disease burden — specifically healthy eating, regular exercise and focusing on being mindful of healthy lifestyle habits.

Furthermore, we are working on enhancements to care coordination and communication among the members of the care team. These enhancements include improvements in pre-hospitalization patient education, enhanced multidisciplinary rounds for inpatients, e-health visits and discharge phone calls — all targeted at reducing readmission rates, which are directly tied to the value-based care initiatives. At Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, the innovation starts with clinical care and continues into the realms of wellness and customer service.   

The patient experience at the West Bloomfield hospital is designed to meet the unexpressed wishes of patients and families during very stressful and dangerous health challenges that they face. While some would call our approach "luxurious," we don't see it that way. We believe that all patients and families deserve a compassionate and supportive care team that provides medical care in a healing environment. From a financial perspective, the environment we have created does not significantly impact the overall cost curve, because the amortized capital expense of a building is a very small component of the overall cost of care in an industry where labor expense makes up about 75 percent of overall cost.

Q: Can and should West Bloomfield Hospital's model of care be replicated in other hospitals and health systems, or does the model work only in certain communities and markets?

GvG: I encourage all healthcare institutions to embrace a patient-centered approach. We want to challenge the entire healthcare industry, in order to advance it through cutting-edge innovation. I do not believe this only works in certain markets or communities, the model can certainly be replicated, especially when you consider the services as wellness, not luxury, services. We have had numerous organizations come to benchmark us to understand what is at the core of both our clinical and wellness services. While every hospital and every market is different, the concept of focusing on our customers' overall health versus just their illness is universal.  

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