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H&HN Daily

Will Hospitals One Day Resemble Hotels?

09.17.12 by Marty Stempniak H&HN Staff Writer

One Michigan hospital is looking increasingly like The Ritz-Carlton.

With the patient's experience moving more and more to the forefront, are hospitals going to increasingly resemble hotels, complete with fancy food and a flat screen in every room?

At Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, in Michigan, that scenario is quickly becoming reality. Last week, the forward-thinking provider unveiled a shiny new 1,500-square-foot greenhouse on its campus, complete with a staff farmer and an attached education center.

The greenhouse is just icing on the cake of a $360 million hospital that opened a couple of years ago. Geared toward hospitality and the visitor experience, the facility includes patient rooms overlooking an outdoor pond, wireless Internet and flat screen TVs, and comfortable furniture for family and friends.

I spoke with West Bloomfield's President and CEO Gerard van Grinsven — who, not so coincidentally, Henry Ford hired after he spent 25 years working for The Ritz-Carlton — for an upcoming story in H&HN. The health system turned heads years ago when it hired some hotel guy with no background in health care back in 2006. But as their vision has crystalized over the past few years, van Grinsven believes that they're quieting the skeptics.

"We opened in the worst economic time ever in this country, in one of the worst performing states in the country, and we were eight months ahead of being cash-flow positive. And this is our first year we are profitable after three years operations," he says. "All these outcomes have really quieted the critics, the cynics who questioned bringing in somebody from the outside world and creating a focus on a community center for well-being, and not just being a traditional, typical hospital. The outcomes really have shown that this is the right type of focus, moving forward."

Henry Ford isn't alone in seizing the hotel mindset when transforming the patient's experience. Haydn Bush explored the growing trend of hospitals embracing hotel-like amenities in a previous issue of H&HN. That includes Sacred Heart Medical Center at River Bend, in Springfield, Ore., with its fireplaces, coffee shops and visitor lounges. And the Get Well Network contracts with hospitals to provide interactive videos at the patient's bedside.

I visited one well-regarded teaching hospital last week in Chicago to try and squelch this nasty heartburn problem I've had since my college days. The receptionist was friendly, the nurse was warm and calming, and my doctor said all the right things to put me at ease. The quality of the care I received was right on point, but still I was in a hospital and it made me a little on edge. Maybe some of the hotel flair was all I needed to shift the experience from very good to great.

What about you? Is your hospital trying anything unusual to better the patient experience? Do you think hospitality has its place in health care, or should guys like Gerard van Grinsven stick to the Ritz? Tell us your thoughts.

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The opinions expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the policy of Health Forum Inc. or the American Hospital Association