Cooped up in a hospital room for a week, one patient at Henry Ford West Bloomfield (Mich.) Hospital was feeling depressed, longing for the geraniums in her garden and the freedom of home life.
As a remedy, staff brought the patient to the new 1,500-square-foot greenhouse outside the hospital. Michelle Lutz, the resident farmer at West Bloomfield, says the greenhouse, which is producing 27 different varieties of plants, including tomatoes, eggplant, okra, strawberries and beets, performed its magic. The visit perked up the patient and lifted her spirits.
"She told me before she left how good it made her feel, and she thanked me for getting her out of a funk," Lutz told Health Facilities Management's sister publication Hospitals & Health Networks.
"When you're sitting in a hospital room, even though our patients have the most beautiful views, sometimes just getting out of that room and being part of something makes you feel good. That's exactly what it did for her," Lutz says.
With health care reform and reimbursements increasingly tied to customer satisfaction, hospitals are finding new ways to please the patient. At West Bloomfield, that meant bringing aboard Gerard van Grinsven, president and CEO, who spent more than 25 years in the hospitality industry.
The hospital opened a $360 million facility in 2008 with rooms overlooking an outdoor pond and other amenities for patients and visitors. West Bloomfield invested about $1 million from an anonymous donor to build the greenhouse and adjoining education center, which opened in September.
But the garden is about more than patient satisfaction, says van Grinsven. Greens grown year-round there will be used in Henry's, the hospital restaurant. Patients and neighborhood children can learn about gardening and eating healthy food, he adds.
"If you combine all these elements, we are now using food as medicine. We are using food as healing. That's the way food was in the old days," van Grinsven says.
"Today, food, unfortunately, is not helping us to live a healthier life, because we are so busy. Mr. Pizza Man is a regular guest in your and my home; our freezers are filled with processed food. And so, we felt this was a great opportunity to really become a mentor and a health coach to the communities in which we operate, and for the patients," he says.