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Bill Kalmar

Health Care

Henry Ford West Bloomfield: More Than a Hospital, An Environment

At this hospital, be ready for a treat and a treatment.

Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 08:00

Several years ago, I penned a column entitled, “Nurse, I’m Ready for My Cappuccino!”  The article was an interview with Gerard van Grinsven,  the new CEO and president of the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, which was to be located in a Detroit suburb. At the time of my interview, Van Grinsven had just left a successful career as general manager at the Ritz-Carlton. His goal in assuming the role of head honcho at the West Bloomfield location of the hospital was to instill the culture of the award-winning Ritz-Carlton Hotel into the DNA of the new hospital.  In short, this is what he envisioned: 

“A facility that provides each patient with a private room outfitted with plasma televisions; plush visitor chairs; state-of-the-art adjustable beds; effective soundproofing that eliminates the constant cacophony from the loudspeakers; a detailed menu from which food can be ordered 24 hours a day; electronic medical records that obviate repetitive questions; a business center for visitors who may be on the premises for extended periods; and physicians, nurses, and support staff for whom providing patients with a pleasant experience is their most important function.” 

Being the seasoned, investigative columnist that I am (no laughing now), I thought it was prudent to visit the hospital, as it is now fully operational, and confirm Van Grinsven’s vision.  What I discovered was truly amazing and awe inspiring: Either Van Grinsven is a magician or he practices slight of hand. In any event, he and his team have created the Cirque du Soleil of health care. (There are hundreds of circuses in the nation but only one that sets the standard for all and that is Cirque du Soleil.) Van Grinsven started out to make the Ford West Bloomfield Hospital the standard in health care and it appears he has established that. There is nothing that even comes close to the service, the treatment, and the level of patient and customer service that one experiences at this wondrous establishment.

• Upon approaching the hospital, you immediately struck by the beauty of the facility. Evidently, the architectural footprint for the building and the grounds were copied from various northern Michigan resorts. The lake and the well-manicured lawn is inspiring and certainly must alleviate fears of patients as they motor into the mammoth parking lot. Valet parking is also provided.

• The welcoming entrance to the hospital resembles that of a luxury hotel. Upon proceeding through the doors, you are greeted by a hostess who cordially provides directions or answers questions.

• Once inside, Van Grinsven’s vision and goal of creating an atmosphere that “takes health and healing beyond the boundaries of imagination” is quickly seen. The corridors are lined with ample signage and you never travel more than a few yards before one of his “angels” provides assistance. These angels are staff, including doctors and nurses, who are all patient focused.

• A slow journey down one of the hallways to admire the various shops took me to the cafeteria. There are no deep fryers or freezers in this facility—the food is fresh and healthy. It is called “Henry’s” to reflect the name of the hospital. 

• Food classes for those in the community are held regularly; and there is a possibility that The Food Network will be televising a segment some time next year from the kitchen, which serves as an auditorium for various presentations.

• The cafeteria is such a hit that every day more than 200 people from the community, who have no direct connection to a patient, choose to dine in the facility. My lunch was excellent, healthy, and moderately priced.

• The facility boasts its own greenhouse where fresh vegetables are grown and incorporated into the menu.

• Summer concerts are held on the mammoth grounds and people are encouraged to come for picnics on the luscious grounds. 


But enough about the food and the grounds and the welcoming service. How does the following translate into better care for patients? 

• First of all, the staff, including senior management, doctors, nurses, and support staff, have been selected by going through the interview process established by Talent Plus. Talent Plus is a worldwide organization headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, focusing on selecting and providing staff that are ideally suited for the position they hope to attain. This is the same organization used by the Ritz-Carlton. I have written about this organization in previous articles and I can tell you from first-hand experience that the interview process enables the interviewer to identify talents in candidates and match those talents with an appropriate position in an organization. The process is virtually mistake proof. As an aside to that comment, I have seen companies that have doubted the results of the Talent Plus recommendation not to hire a certain person only to regretfully learn later that the instincts and findings of the interviewer were right on mark. The professionalism and friendliness of the staff at the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital is proof enough that the Talent Plus’ “Science of Talent” works. People do things here in a comfort zone.

• Each patient has a private room. Now in some minds this may seem excessive but consider this—the hospital is releasing patients a half-day earlier than any other hospital because there are fewer infections. Thus patients leave sooner and few return for other symptoms. In fact, the patient satisfaction rate measured by Press Gainey is 99 percent—the highest in the industry.

• Turnover at the hospital is at 5.5 percent, while many other health care facilities experience a 35- to 40-percent turnover rate. This gets back to the selection process. People with the talent for the position, placed in a position where they can perform successfully and admirably, and are happy and content.

• With all these innovative features around service, the hospital’s core strengths remain around providing clinical care that is the very best available. Physicians from various disciplines embrace the concept of team medicine and work together to offer multidisciplinary care centers including neuroscience, cancer care, digestive disorders, woman’s and children’s health, heart care, and many more. And as part of the nationally respected, fully integrated Henry Ford Health System, the hospital offers access to cutting-edge research and the latest clinical trials. 

• If you are a patient, you quickly become accustomed to 24-hour room service. 

• Each Wednesday, farmers and vendors are invited to display their fresh fruits and vegetables along a cobblestone street inside the hospital. On my visit, all the vendors were doing a brisk business.


As you can see, this is more than "merely" a hospital. It is an environment. Consider this. Recently, nine couples made requests to conduct their upcoming nuptials at the hospital. Let me be clear. These are not patients who want to return and recite their “I do’s.” These are couples from the community who became enthralled with the atmosphere, the exquisite architecture, and decided that their most important day would take place at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. This is truly a remarkable endorsement of the detail and planning that went into the facility and its grounds. 

So as you can see, Van Grinsven’s vision has come to life. He and his remarkable team of physicians, nurses, and support staff have established the benchmark for all hospitals. The patient survey given to everyone starts with the statement, “We are striving to create a world-class experience for the people we serve.” In my mind, he has done that and more. My only regret? The cafeteria menu is lacking a serving of chili cheese fries. Oh well, nothing wrong with my getting healthy.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.