Friday, January 21, 2011

Focus on the Patient Experience in Healthcare Marketing: Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

In healthcare marketing, there is a shift to focusing on the patient experience. Hospitals all over the country are trying to "wow" patients to win admissions. While more and more are trying, I doubt any hospital does it quite like Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in West Bloomfield, MI.

Last night at an event held in the lush atrium of the 2-year-old hospital I had the opportunity to tour the facility and hear its CEO Gerard Van Grinsven speak about what they're doing to change the patient experience and compete on a whole new level.

It was remarkable. And not just the revolutionary hospital design and beautiful decor, but also the culture, the attitude and the entire experience.

It started as soon as I turned into the drive. Much like Apple, Inc. you can tell the whole campus was designed for ease of use as well as aesthetics. Many hospital campuses are a little too complex, frustrating or suffer from poor signage. But not here. Here it seemed like I just floated into a parking space.

Then I walked through the door. If I didn't know better, I would have thought I just entered some sort of mall...actually more like an upscale hotel in Las Vegas with has shops and dining. A far departure from your typical sterile, uninviting hospital.

Then I was escorted to my destination by a friendly gentleman who took some time to get to know me as we walked. He wasn't like all the other greeters at other hospitals; he took an interest and made genuine conversation. Even the lady cleaning the restroom was engaging and friendly.

Later at the event I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Van Grinsven, who was recruited from the luxury-brand Ritz-Carleton hotel to open the hospital and create a new patient experience. They chose wisely. In our brief conversation, I could tell that he gets it. He understands that its all about the patient and his passion for changing the experience shows. As we talked I started to understand what the difference was. He explained that they have created a culture by empowering employees to make a difference. You can't just tell someone to smile, make eye contact and greet a visitor. If the culture isn't right, and employees aren't happy, it will come off as insincere. I've seen that happen so many times. The people at Henry Ford West Bloomfield aren't just putting on a happy face, they are sincere.

As he addressed the crowd of mostly leaders from competing hospitals, he went on to explain his philosophy: Create a new level on which to compete. Hospitals can't keep competing on the same old things because its just driving up cost and reducing value for the patient.

So what they've done was design a facility that makes you feel at home. They've designed buildings and processes that reduce anxiety (e.g. staff meet surgical patients at the door and keep families in constant communication during the procedure). They serve fresh and organic foods. They have no deep fryers and no freezers. People actually go there to eat even when they don't have to. And get this -- they'll even be hosting a wedding soon. That has to be a first.

One might think, "how can they afford to do all this?" They're exceeding their financial targets and have even opened up new revenue streams. They have a culinary learning institute, healthy cooking classes for the community, shops, a spa and don't forget, a wedding venue. Length of stay is even half a day lower because, as Mr. Van Grinsven believes, their patients heal faster because they've created a more healing environment.

In my follow up post I explain how this competitive shift creates a robust healthcare marketing opportunity -- and how Henry Ford (or your organization) should take advantage of it. Read it here.

For more information about Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital visit its website.

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