The challenge today is to deliver a level of service comparable to the best hotels in the world, to create a mystique that encourages people to seek us out. But the bigger challenge, the real opportunity for reinvention, is to rethink the role of a hospital. How do we position ourselves as a community center for well-being — as a destination that helps everyone to lead a healthier life?

Gerard van Grinsven, CEO of Henry Ford West Bloomfield (a hospital that is part of the Henry Ford Health System)

One Hospital’s Radial Prescription for Change, Harvard Business Review

Fence sitting is annoying. But I’m completely on the fence with this one. Detroit’s got big problems; building a brand new hospital run by a former Ritz Carlton executive in an area with lots of privately insured patients was probably a necessary decision for long-term sustainability.

But the new hospital begs a question: should hospitals be compared to five star hotels? It’s easy to write that question off with an emphatic “NO” for a variety of reasons; but I think that is inappropriate. Simply because we haven’t before considered hospitals an attractive four day, three night destination doesn’t mean we shouldn’t now. Quite simply, lots of the things they are doing are backed by research: healthy food, positive healing environment, private rooms.

But the question comes, as it should: is the luxury making healthcare more expensive? If so, could those dollars be better used elsewhere? It will be interesting to see if Henry Ford publishes any outcome measures. 

The utilitarian architecture of most hospitals today is depressing–not to mention the technological progress healthcare has made that renders existing space inadequate. Maybe West Bloomfield is onto something special, maybe not.

There is controversy around the new hospital’s design and the business logic behind the decision to build the facility, but one thing I think they are getting unequivocally correct relates to the question Mr. van Grinsven poses:

How do we position ourselves as a community center for well-being — as a destination that helps everyone to lead a healthier life?

Redefining the role of the traditionally defined hospital presents an opportunity to help everyone in the community get healthier; not just the patients that are admitted.

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