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Bill Kalmar

Health Care

Hat Trick for One Baldrige Winner CEO?

Gerard Van Grinsven’s team guides Henry Ford Health System to performance excellence

Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 12:21

The 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award winners were announced last week, and for the first time, three recipients are in the health care category.

The recipients of the 2011 Baldrige Award are:

Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis (nonprofit)
Henry Ford Health System, Detroit (health care)
Schneck Medical Center, Seymour, Indiana (health care)
Southcentral Foundation, Anchorage, Alaska (health care)

Of the 69 applicants for the 2011 Baldrige Award, 40 were from health care. Baldrige examiners conducted 11 site visits, and six were at health care organizations.

All of the winners deserve congratulations, but I’d like to focus on just one—Henry Ford Health System, which is my hospital. I have written about the extraordinary service at this health care facility in the following columns in Quality Digest:
Nurse, I’m Ready for My Cappuccino
Quality in Health Care Still the Best Medicine
Henry Ford West Bloomfield: More Than a Hospital, an Environment

Pardon me if I rave a bit more.

The Henry Ford Health System (HFHS), based in Detroit, includes six hospitals, a 1,200-physician medical group, and a 500,000-member health plan.

In a profile of Henry Ford Health System, the Baldrige examiners wrote:

“HFHS’s leaders model and support entrepreneurism throughout the health-care delivery system, research operations, and the Health Alliance Plan. Innovative strategies and solutions have been developed and implemented for the past decade, helping reduce unintended patient harm and establishing a ‘zero-defect, no-excuses’ approach to health care outcomes.

“Among the best-in-class innovations at HFHS: the Perfect Depression Program, which uses an evidenced-based, integrated approach to address chronic depression; Home Health Services, Pharmacy Advantage, and OptimEyes (optometry care)—all services with a retail presence to increase brand recognition and access to new customers; and the West Bloomfield ‘hospital model,’ in which a new hospital was built from scratch with the active involvement of the community (resulting in a facility with features such as a Culinary Wellness Program and an innovative building design with a ‘Main Street’ feel).”

Henry Ford Health System has a very talented team headed by its dynamic CEO, Nancy Schlichting. All of its employees are service-oriented, but I want to commend three Henry Ford Hospital employees in particular for their exemplary service.

Three years ago I had robotically-assisted prostate surgery performed by James Peabody, M.D. Since then I have been cancer free, and as I have reflected in previous columns, all systems are “go.” Dr. Peabody has become a personal friend, and we compete in a 10K race every year. This year’s race was held last month, and I beat him—albeit by only 20 seconds—but he is 15 years my junior. Frankly, I think losing the weight of a prostate makes me run faster.

Nurse Andrea Simone has become my guardian angel, as she was instrumental in guiding me through the surgery process and post-operative care, no matter what time of day or night. In fact, my wife, Mary, and I join Nurse Simone and Dr. Peabody every year for lunch on the anniversary of the surgery. Her perkiness and kindness are unparalleled.

And finally, I laud my good friend, Gerard Van Grinsven, who is the president and CEO of Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield. He and I first met when he was a general manager for the Ritz-Carlton and responsible for all the hotels in Dearborn, Michigan; St. Louis; Cleveland; and Philadelphia. He and I orchestrated many two-day customer service symposiums where we discussed the philosophy of the Ritz-Carlton and the advantages of benchmarking and applying for the Baldrige Award. 

Van Grinsven was part of the Ritz Carlton team when the hotel won the Baldrige Award for the service category in 1992 and 1999. This year he is a part of the Baldrige Award winning team at Henry Ford Health System. In hockey, scoring three goals is called a “hat trick,” and Van Grinsven has managed this feat. As you can see, anytime this guy shows up at a company, a Baldrige Award is the result. 

Grinsven modestly attributes it to a talented team and loads of dedication, but in my opinion, his energy, vision, and strong work ethic as a leader is unmatched, and that’s what makes this whole operation so successful.

So there you have it—the award winning Henry Ford Health System. During the next year as the staff shares its vision of performance excellence with interviews and, of course, an appearance at the 24th Quest for Excellence Conference in April 2012, people will learn what we here in Michigan have known for quite some time: This is one well-run, excellent hospital.


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 semi-retired, 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.