A fish out of water?

“Why would you pick a hotel exec to run a hospital?”

That was the question quite a few people were asking when Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) CEO Nancy Shlichting appointed Gerard van Grinsven to be the President and CEO of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in West Bloomfield, Michigan (Mr. van Grinsven was formerly a formerly Vice President with the Ritz-Carlton Company). While van Grinsven’s appointment may have raised a few eyebrows at the time, the results have been extremely positive: HFHS was subsequently recognized as one of the four 2011 recipients of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Should we be surprised? The connection between hospitality and hospital is closer than we think. We don’t often think of health care or education as service industries but when it comes to hospital and school staff (from doctors and nurses to teachers and janitors) and their interactions with patients and students, there is quite a lot they can learn from service industries. Healthcare could actually take elements from both manufacturing and from hospitality: the combination of better service and refined, more efficient processes lead to improved delivery and higher levels of customer/patient satisfaction.

The Ritz-Carlton philosophy is actually less about luxury and more about establishing a high level of quality—through personal interaction and well-defined processes—as an essential component of their professional culture. It is about improving customer interactions with stronger and more strategic communication. These are the same ideas behind the growing popularity of the “AIDET” acronym making inroads across the healthcare industry. AIDET (Acknowledge, Introduce, Duration, Explanation, and Thank You) is a valuable outline for quality engagement and communication in any industry, and a good reminder that quality and service are essential ingredients for success in any profession.

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