Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital: Gerard van Grinsven, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on August 19, 2010

Approximately 150 people visit Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Michigan each day, not because they are sick or in need of emergency healthcare, but to dine at Henry’s, the hospital’s café. Welcome to “Main Street”, the main corridor of this one of a kind facility, where all the products revolve around health, wellness and sustainability.

Henry Ford West Bloomfield opened in March of 2009 and currently has 160 of its 300 inpatient beds open. It is one of six major hospitals within the Henry Ford Health System, which also has 27 outpatient medical centers.

“We have created a very unique concept here. We are not your typical, traditional hospital,” says Gerard van Grinsven, President and CEO. Grinsven was recruited from the luxury hotel industry in 2006. “Our position in this facility is to be a community center for wellbeing. Foremost, we deliver clinical excellence and patient safety, but we also feel that we have to play health coach to the communities we operate in.”

A True Center for Wellness

Obesity is the number one epidemic in the United States and leads to the most common diseases affecting the country’s state of health—diabetes, cancer, and heart conditions. “We feel we need to play a very proactive role in helping our communities address obesity,” says Grinsven. “We have created activities and programs here which actually attract healthy people to come here and partake in well-organized, fun, caring activities to help the community become healthier.”

Upon entering the hospital—which sits on an area of wetlands and woodlands and is designed to look like a lodge—customers know that they have arrived at a place that has a different attitude. Vita, the hospital’s wellness institute, includes elaborate healing rooms, water therapy pools, a body and mind studio and a workout facility. Integrative care includes massage, acupuncture and chiropractic therapies. When a woman visit’s for a check up, for instance, she isn’t just teamed with a doctor; she also meets with a certified health coach who will help her create personalized programs based on complementary medicine or diet and workout routines.

Good Food is Part of the Whole Health Equation

The hospital’s Demonstration Kitchen (DK), includes a 90-seat auditorium with a state of the art kitchen line in the front. “We felt that if we wanted to address obesity, we had to focus on food,” says Grinsven. “Traditionally, food is not something many hospitals can be proud of, but we decided we were going to have to have the finest food culture in healthcare in this country.”

Celebrity Chefs at the hospital work primarily with sustainable agriculture products and there is no cooking out of packs or cans. Daily cooking classes in the DK feature lessons for people with specific health concerns or just people who want to learn how to eat healthier. In six months the hospital will open the first culinary learning institute for healthcare, teaching fellow health care systems and other institutions how to transform their food culture for the better..

“We are really investing in the well being of our community,” Grinsven says, and the community is responding. They created a catering department in response to the number of community members wanting to hold board meetings and social events at the hospital. “We already have nine wedding inquiries. Can you believe that?” he says, “To get married at the hospital?”

Changing the Culture of Hospitals Everywhere

Amidst the innovation, the hospital itself is not to be overlooked. All trends in terms of emergency room volumes, surgical volumes and admissions are up. In addition, their patient satisfaction scores rank them in the top one percent in the country..

“Of course, we are here to deliver clinical excellence to the community we operate in. Our foremost focus is being the safest hospital in the United States, but we took that one step further and said we need to find a way to integrate wellness into our communities, not just from a clinical perspective, but also from a coaching perspective.”

“What we’re actually trying to accomplish is to challenge an entire industry in order to advance the entire industry to cutting edge innovation. Hopefully other organizations might be inspired to do similar things. Our outcomes are assuring us that this is a model that is working.”

A Talent Based Organization

Another component of the hospital’s operations that Grinsven says is crucial to the success they’ve experienced is in their approach to hiring. All potential employees, including physicians, are first screened through a natural talents interview conducted by Talent Plus, a human resources consulting firm headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. “It helps us understand the natural talents of each individual. Does this individual have talents for relationships? Does this individual have talents for compassionate care?”

Skill set and experience become the secondary characteristics reviewed in potential new hires. Talent Plus helps determine where in the organization an individual can best be utilized. “What we have created is a culture of highly emotionally engaged employees,” says Grinsven. The hospital experiences 50% less turnover than would be expected in a new hospital. Missed days and sick days are lower, as well. “Our medical errors are down because our employees communicate. Our engagement with the customers is tremendous and our customers are giving us the thumbs up.”

Creating a Sustainable Hospital

“We believe, ultimately, that what we do will decrease healthcare costs,” says Grinsven. “70% of medical errors happen because of lack of communication … so when you have a highly engaged, talented work force they communicate better with each other, which means you will reduce medical errors. We see that already happening in this facility, which means less malpractice payments, which means reducing costs… A highly talented and engaged workforce will engage so much better with the patient, the family member and the physicians. Those customer will go out into the community and be your best ambassadors.”

“I’m a big believer that you need to create a highly emotionally engaged workforce. You start creating a culture where every single employee feels valued—that they are being invested in—and they feel that they can grow and develop and are empowered to make decisions. That means your innovative ideas will triple. Innovation doesn’t start with the CEO and your senior leaders, it starts with your people… Through that kind of culture you will see significant improvements in your outcomes. That’s my leadership philosophy.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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