Shop Well

Sleek hospital boutiques and cafeterias offer visitors — and patients — a wide range of healthy choices
Illustration by James Yang

Talk about retail therapy.

Shopping may be just what the doctor ordered for metro Detroit hospitals and the people they serve. As a shopping tour of area medical centers reveals, it’s now possible to get a CT scan and a Ben & Jerry’s in one convenient stop.

Medical-center merchandise has evolved well beyond stuffed animals, chocolates, flowers, and vending-machine snacks. As a recent tour of area medical emporiums found, patients, visitors, and staff can browse boutiques and come away with, say, an aromatherapy diffuser or a stylish purse.

At the new Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, which opens this month, the extensive retail offerings will include a sleep store, a mom and baby store; and the Live Well shop, where customers can find specialty foods, bath and body care, and healthful home products. There’s even a farmers market planned for spring.

“You come and have a mammogram and, on your way out, you stop and buy some organic vegetables,” says Sven Gierlinger, Henry Ford West Bloomfield’s hospitality services administrator. “The inspiration was to be the health coach for the community. We want wellness to be what’s speaking to you when you first walk in, not illness.”

Gierlinger says the hospital hopes visitors of the nearby Jewish Community Center will “dine out” at Henry Ford where, he boasts, “The food is absolutely amazing.” The restaurant-quality fare comes courtesy of the hospital’s culinary director and local chef Matt Prentice, who’s responsible for planning all the food served, from cafeteria service to patient trays. Cafeteria food stations are managed by Prentice chefs. Look for sushi, whole-grain pizza, and organic produce.

Such perks reflect an increasingly competitive environment for hospitals. Hospital spending gobbled 31 percent of the $2.1 trillion the United States shelled out for health care in 2006, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Hospitals looking to capture a bigger piece of that financial pie are hoping gourmet food and appealing retail can lure new customers.

At Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, visitors seeking a pick-me-up can choose from among Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and a bakery that beckons with cookies, éclairs, and cannolis.

Latte in hand, one could wander into the Perfect Gift, which sells Crabtree and Evelyn body-care products, essential-oil diffusers, wool coats, and home décor. Shops and eateries overlook an open atrium bathed in natural light and replete with comfy stuffed chairs and couches.
At the new Providence Park Hospital in Novi, a volunteer-run gift store, which would easily fit in on Main Street, is stocked with chic handbags, jewelry, soy candles, and fashionable duds.

Providence Park’s culinary offerings are equally appealing. At its Fresh Inspirations Café, diners may order grilled tuna steak with pineapple salsa or a veggie burger with portobello mushrooms. The cafeteria even sells whole rotisserie chicken for staff on the go.

“People are saying they didn’t know healthy food could taste so good,” says Suzanne Gunsorek, the hospital’s director of nutrition services. “We’re trying to practice what we preach.”

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