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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Nurse, I’m Ready for My Cappuccino!

And tell my visitors I’ll see them now

Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - 21:00

Being confined to a hospital bed can bring more discomfort than the malady that prompted the admission. Crowded rooms with other patients in various stages of illness, tasteless meals delivered with apathy, loud announcements for lost doctors, and a staff more concerned about planning their next day off than answering your call for another pain pill are common.

How does this sound? 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.

Where might you find a health care facility that infuses all these elements into their daily work activities? Well, look no further than a hospital currently under construction in West Bloomfield, Michigan, under the scrutiny of Gerard van Grinsven, a former executive with The Ritz-Carlton. One of my recent columns discussed the customer service of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., and those same traits are now being infused into the Henry Ford Health Systems hospital by van Grinsven. From what I learned from my interview with him, this new facility will likely parallel the legendary reputation of his previous employer.

At The Ritz-Carlton, van Grinsven was responsible for food and beverage services worldwide. From that position he was transferred to the Dearborn, Michigan, property where he was appointed area general manager for St. Louis, Cleveland, Philadelphia and, of course, the Dearborn property. During that time, through his open-door management style, his constant focus on detail and his personalized interaction with staff and customers, he was able to move the Dearborn property from a rather dismal customer-service ranking to No. 11 out of more than 50 other properties in the company in a matter of one year. Having worked with him on a number of projects I can attest to his empowerment of people, and his special talent of remembering the names of every employee and talking to them whenever he can.

Van Grinsven joined the Henry Ford Health System group in June 2006. Since then, he has totally immersed himself in learning the intricacies of the health care industry. To that end, he has participated in the patient sign-in process, met with all the physicians and nurses to gauge their expectations, and even witnessed several surgeries. This is a manager who leaves nothing to chance and his past experiences with The Ritz-Carlton will serve him well in this new environment.

Although many hospitals have employed gimmicks to attract new patients, such as offering a 29-minute emergency room sign-in guarantee, van Grinsven stated that the new hospital would focus on the total experience for the patient. As such, it isn’t surprising that conspicuous on his desk was a copy of the 2007 Baldrige healthcare criteria. He intends to infuse the philosophy and mentality of The Ritz-Carlton culture into the hospital using the framework and structure provided by the Baldrige criteria.

As evidenced by the number of hospitals that have won Baldrige awards, it’s no secret that health care has embraced the Baldrige process. Of the 84 applications for this year’s award, 42 are from the health care industry. I envision hospitals continuing this trend and subjecting the total patient experience to a full-court press. As potential patients and visitors ourselves, isn’t that what we expect?

Let’s hear from an expert on this matter, the director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program, Harry Hertz. “There are several reasons for health care to have adopted the Baldrige in increasing numbers. First, it makes good health care, patient, and business sense. Second, health care is being challenged like never before to improve quality and reduce cost and waste while improving patient focus, satisfaction, and loyalty. Third, the Baldrige recipients in health care have shown what role models, using the Baldrige criteria, can accomplish. Wouldn’t you want to be that good and getting better?”

Let me just say at the outset that there are numerous hospitals in our country that epitomize the qualities that Hertz enumerates. A number of Baldrige winners in health care are role models. My purpose in writing about the Henry Ford Health System is to explore the ramifications of incorporating the Baldrige criteria with elements of The Ritz-Carlton philosophy and examine how that partnership might exist. Let me share with you some of the insights from my interview with van Grinsven that I think will be copied by other health care facilities.

Van Grinsven envisions a hospital that is the preferred employer in the area. In that regard, he has already installed the employee-screening process of Talent Plus, which has created a 60-minute interview that can done on the phone. The Talent Plus interview focuses on the applicant’s natural talents and links those to his or her skill set and experience to find the right “seat on the bus” for every candidate. Having seen employees hired by Talent Plus for The Ritz-Carlton and for Mercedes-Benz, I feel that the Talent Plus experience will bring qualified, energized employees to the facility.

Van Grinsven envisions a hospital that:

  • Has a strong focus on family members. His sense is that there need to be frequent updates to family members because a lack of information sometimes instills fear.
  • Has a cadre of physicians and nurses who are permanently assigned to the hospital and who provide outstanding clinical programs and one-stop shopping.
  • Serves as a community center for the well-being of the entire area and focuses on the quality of life for all patients.
  • Has volunteers—“angels”—who provide for the care and comfort of visitors and create a warmly welcoming environment.

From what I observed during my short visit, many of these elements are already in place. When I entered the administration building, I was warmly received by two attendants who greeted me by name and told me that van Grinsven was awaiting me on the fourth floor. My being the only person in the lobby not in hospital scrubs must have given me away. Upon my arrival at his office, one of his assistants asked me about my beverage preference. When I said water she asked if I wanted it room temperature or cold. That’s a query you’ll hear at The Ritz-Carlton, but at a hospital? Wow!

I’m contemplating parlaying my annual bout with poison ivy into a way to become a patient at this new health care jewel! I wonder if they’ll offer monogrammed robes.


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.