Solv CEO Heather Fernandez recently met with Gerard Van Grinsven to discuss best practices for creating an unrivalled healthcare experience.
With a Ritz-Carlton hotelier’s background, Gerard takes credit for fostering Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital’s unrivalled, award-winning dedication to patient care. Discussed in detail in our recent blog, Gerard Van Grinsven promotes a model of healthcare that puts patients first and invests in an outstanding consumer experience.
Solv’s CEO Heather Fernandez founded Solv with the hopes of bringing the best-in-class consumer experience modelled at her previous company, Trulia, to the world of healthcare. She believes that the process of booking healthcare should be just as convenient, transparent and efficient as finding a ride, shopping for homes online or ordering food to your doorstep.
These two revolutionaries in the world of consumer health shared personal anecdotes and advice they gained while developing innovative luxury healthcare experiences. Whether you run a hospital or a small family practice, providing a competitive, innovative, unforgettable patient experience is well within your grasp. To boot, implementing their strategies will likely positively affect patient and employee loyalty and reduce operational cost.
Recognize Patients as Consumers
Before any real change can occur, operators must begin with a shift in mindset. Gerard and Heather both refer to their clients as consumers, rather than patients. Gerard explains that this word evokes a more autonomous view of the client, one that recognizes the patient is in fact choosing care rather than being tied to one provider.
When Gerard set out to improve his hospital, viewing patients as consumers was innovative and forward-thinking. Now, seeing patients as consumers is an imperative. The COVID crisis forced innovations and improvements to consumer experiences - from grocery stores to car shopping, users expect a streamlined, optimized experience. This change is one that is and must continue to be reflected in healthcare in order to stay competitive.
Heather built Solv on a foundation of consumer research and continues to strive for innovation in consumer health. Gerard and Heather both suggest you begin to view your patients as consumers who can make a conscious choice when seeking care. In doing so, you must take it upon yourself to create an experience worth choosing; an experience that outshines those of the competitors in your area.
Before you set about creating an unrivalled healthcare experience, it is imperative you surround yourself with the right people.
Start with the Right Team
"People wildly overestimate [the value of] experience over pure talent and curiosity." - Heather Fernandez
Heather and Gerard agree that change begins with your staff. The individuals you employ at your practice influence company culture and can make or break any attempt to institute change.
Gerard recommends you surround yourself with talented, driven people with an innate ability to provide care and comfort. While hiring tools are useful, Heather recognizes they are an expensive investment and may not be universally accessible. For practices on a budget, she suggests modifying the hiring process by factoring in a candidate’s passion can deliver the same results. Indicating that “people wildly overestimate [the value of] experience over pure talent and curiosity,” she suggests probing a candidate’s curiosity during the interview process and weighting it appropriately against their experience.
Hiring for curiosity, talent and passion will positively affect your practice. Gerard suggests that creating the right focus in your company can reduce overall cost by influencing culture, improving company loyalty and reducing the number of sick days used by employees.
Even the right team can be stifled in the wrong environment, making it imperative you facilitate an environment of open communication and innovation.
Facilitate Transparent Communication
Once you have surrounded yourself with curious, passionate individuals, you must create an environment that encourages innovation.
In order to break down the “silos of communication” causing information to stagnate in his hospital, Gerard launched a massive internal marketing campaign to promote the values of open and honest communication. He noted that this campaign reduced the number of medical errors being made. This comes as no surprise, as studies demonstrate that up to 30% of medical errors are caused by a lack of communication.
Heather, too, recommends a direct approach to facilitating open dialogue. Constructive candor here at Solv actively promotes open communication among team members. Citing fear of repercussions as a barrier to open communication, she suggests sharing examples of open communication and their positive outcomes with your team. Sharing success reinforces that speaking out is not only encouraged, but necessary for company growth and success.
Creating a culture in which expectations are set and direct communication is encouraged increases safety and nurtures innovation. Even so, it is ultimately up to you, as an operator, to act on suggestions and facilitate institutional change.
Don’t Fear Innovation
"Innovate, or be left behind." - Gerard van Grinsven
Simply surrounding yourself with the right team and facilitating innovation isn’t enough to institute meaningful change. It’s not always easy to go against the grain, but Gerard insists that operators have a responsibility to promote change and bring positive change to patients’ lives - “innovate, or be left behind,” warns his LinkedIn page.
Healthcare, as an industry, has historically resisted change and shied away from innovation. Not long ago, the market was oversaturated, and many operators were booked solid with patients, leaving them with no reason and no spare time to make a change. The COVID crisis has facilitated a decline in elective procedures and other routine and low acuity visits. This shift from a high-demand, low-supply market to one bloated with options forces operators to view their patients as consumers. But this shift in mindset is not enough.
It is up to operators to create a competitive healthcare experience, and innovation is key to creating a healthcare experience worth choosing.
“Don’t be afraid to stand out. You have more influence than you think you have. Be confident you can make a significant difference.” - Gerard van Grinsven
Much of healthcare’s resistance to change is due to institutional standards that are difficult to contend with. This is where smaller operators will have an advantage over large, and it’s an advantage that should not be taken lightly.
Use Size to Your Advantage
"Recognize, as a smaller operator, that you have tremendous advantages that very large systems do not have." - Heather Fernandez
When he set out to create a best-in-class hospital experience, Gerard introduced a number of changes, including a new food-ordering system, the discontinuation of communal treatment rooms and nightly checks, and the re-institution of rounds that included the entire care team as well as the patient’s family. While these changes yielded dividends, instituting them in an organization as large and complex as Henry Ford West Bloomfield was no easy feat.
This challenge is one that many of you will not have to face. If you are operating a smaller practice, appreciate that your size is a strength, rather than a weakness.
“Recognize, as a smaller operator, that you have tremendous advantages that very large systems do not have,” encourages Heather. Large, asset-heavy systems like hospitals are resistant to organizational change, as they are bogged down by thousands of physicians. With a smaller PNL, the perceived risk of change for smaller practices is outweighed by the potential benefits of making an operational change. Heather also suggests smaller practices have more flexibility to determine what the user is actually seeking. A smaller number of patients allows you to tweak your operating strategy based on individual needs to deliver a more catered care experience.
Invest in your Patients’ Wellcare
Gerard insists you consider your patient’s health as an investment. At Henry Ford West Bloomfield, he shifted his hospital team’s focus from solely treating illness to a more holistic model of wellness. This model puts “care” first and trusts that “health” will follow.
Gerard argues that, while costly, this investment in patient wellness pays immeasurable dividends. His hospital provided a haven for optimal nourishment, rest and recovery - which in turn resulted in higher patient and employee engagement scores, lower readmission and infection rates, shortened length of stay, and the lowest number of medical errors in the country. By shifting from “sick-care” to “well-care,” Gerard and his team provided an experience that left patients healthier and armed them with the knowledge necessary to stay that way.
He also supplemented this holistic health model with additional paid lifestyle classes, a strategy you might consider in your own practice.
While many healthcare models are reliant on sickness to generate revenue, shifting the focus from treatment of illness to the maintenance of health can increase patient loyalty and ratings.
Watch for Innovations in Healthcare
Keep an eye on innovators in healthcare and use the tools and suggestions they provide to better serve your patient population.
Gerard continues to innovate after leaving Henry Ford West Bloomfield. He recently founded Project Catalyst, a resort-like healthcare facility for the holistic treatment of autoimmune disease and serious chronic illnesses.
Solv stands by operators to provide the best consumer experience available. Our unmatched dedication to consumer research ensures we will continue to deliver the best tools and advice for providing a first-class healthcare experience. Creating an unrivalled consumer health experience means nothing if your patients can’t easily access it; our easy-to-use booking system, consumers can easily choose the best care available to them. Using our product contributes to sustained practice growth and encourages patient loyalty.