Gerard van Grinsven
CEO and President, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital (USA)

Employee Engagement, Innovation, Leadership, Service Excellence

Netherlands-born Gerard van Grinsven, a former Ritz-Carlton executive, has much of his career in the hospitality, food and beverage industry, traveling on an incredible global odyssey through many of the world’s most acclaimed hotels–The Mandarin in Jakarta, The Oriental in Bangkok, the Ramada Renaissance in Hong Kong, the Peninsula in Manila and the Hotel Inter-Continental in Berlin.

Wherever he goes, van Grinsven’s commitment to service excellence is legendary. In all, he has opened 20 Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide, with each achieving the highest level of customer satisfaction.

“To be successful and provide great customer service, it all starts with creating a positive environment for your employees.” he says.

“If they feel like they are being treated with trust, respect and dignity and are empowered to make decisions, the service they provide to customers will be exceptional.”

Taking this philosophy of employee and customer engagement, van Grinsven parlayed his experience in the luxury hotel business to an industry where he takes care of a different type of “guest.”

In 2010, amid the worst economic downturn in more than a generation, the grand, $360-million Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital opened in West Bloomfield, Michigan. It’s a LEED (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design)-certified, Feng Shui-designed hospital and community wellness centre with private rooms overlooking a pond, landscaped courtyards and 160 acres of wetlands and woodlands. With 24-hour room service, WiFi and live feeds of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, it’s an extraordinary example of what healthcare can look like. And it’s all being managed under the leadership of now ex-hotelier Gerard van Grinsven.

For three years prior to opening, van Grinsven used his entire skill set to plan and design the hospital. “From the get-go, I said that the food in the hospital would be the finest in the country,” he says. Gone are the deep fryers and freezers, and ingredients are fresh, and all meals are prepared on demand. “Food in the old days was medicine; it was healing. We feel strongly that we must be proactive through food and educate the community on how to avoid or better manage chronic diseases.”

And the focus on wellness doesn’t stop there.

From a full service wellness and integrative medicine centre Vita, to a destination healthy café, Henry’s, to retail shops focused on healthy living adjacent to a 90 seat kitchen auditorium that holds cooking classes for patients and the community, this is not your typical hospital. “We’re about to build a state-of-the-art green house which will give us another incredible opportunity to educate our community,” van Grinsven points out.

“In addition to the great clinical excellence we bring to the table, we are really creating a community centre for well-being, instead of just a hospital,” says van Grinsven. “When people walk through our doors we have a window of opportunity to help them think differently about how they can change their lives.”

“Members of the community can come to us when they are healthy to learn about and participate in activities and programs that will help them in their pursuit of living a healthy, optimal life. This is a hospital designed to keep you well.”

Ultimately, van Grinsven is not interested in simply running the Taj Mahal of hospitals. Many of the innovations are geared toward improving outcomes and reducing costs. For example, having all private rooms decreases the chances of infection, meaning less patients getting sick while they are in the hospital and a reduction in readmission rates and length of stay.

The ultimate goal, van Grinsven says, is for the hospital to catalyze the development of a new model for the delivery of health care, one that lowers costs through wellness prevention.

“If we combine the very best clinical programs with exceptional service and a focus on wellness, we can challenge the entire health care industry and set a new standard for care in this country.”

Innovation in Healthcare