The Rise of Healthcare Dining Services as a Core Service in Hospitals.

Why a patient-centered model of care should always be on the menu.

Forget the quality of the medical degree Dr. Jones has on her office wall.

It’s time to start thinking about the quality of food on top of your patient’s plates.

In the past, food and beverage services were no more than just an additional to the core operations of any healthcare establishment.

But with the rise of complete transparency in customer service in healthcare through social media channels it’s now even more important for Healthcare operations to take note of the food they serve up.

Why?

Choice.

Consumers now have an incredible array of choice in front of them. Food and beverage quality is now becoming a huge deciding factor on which healthcare establishment or hospital customers will choose to go to.

It’s now power to the patient, people.

Facebook and Twitter says so…as do the million other social media networks out there.

Imagine Mr. Shankar in bed #4B tweeting loud and clear, real time to the world… “Eeeeewwwwweew….there’s a foreign object of the pubic kind floating around in my oily looking pumpkin soup at the XYX Hospital in New York.”

Sorry about the pubic bit. But one needs to make strong examples to ensure you realise how hairy things can become when social media is involved.

Anywayssss….

I’ve been saying forever (and probably annoyingly so!) that customer service in healthcare, with the focus on a more patient-centered model of care, is at the crux of any healthcare operation going forward.

It means services that were traditionally classed as unimportant or not relative to the patient’s experience are now valuable indicators of a quality healthcare operation and therefore influence customer decisions and THEREFORE the bottom line of your healthcare business. (Now go yell that into the ears of the bean counters in your healthcare operation.) 

Food and beverage services are now playing a big role in overall customer satisfaction.

So if you’ve been serving up slop, you better shape up.

Results from a recent survey shows things are promising for patients.

I recently took part in a Unidine survey of hospital executives. It was designed to provide a snapshot of how hospital dining and guest services are used to facilitate patient-centered care.

Topics covered in the survey fell into two main categories:

  1. How are hospital dining services tied to patient-centered care strategies through reporting, metrics and accountability?
  2. What elements of dining and guest service programs are used to align hospital services with a patient-centered philosophy of care?

To give the survey an objective perspective Unidine is a food and dining management service in the US serving aged care facilities, hospitals and businesses. They’re basically outsourced caterers that look after your food and beverage departments.

Here’s what they say about their business…

By bringing unparalleled food service management and culinary expertise seasoned professionals deliver a customized, quality dining experience, while maximizing operational and cost-efficiencies.

So, as they pitch themselves as “quality food management” gurus, obviously the survey and the resulting outcomes of same is written to encourage more healthcare providers to follow trend and increase the quality of their F&B by using Unidine.

Regardless of potential bias, the results are pretty promising for the outlook of patient-centered care models.

Here’s an excerpt of the Unidine survey outcomes…

The encouraging news is that adoption of the many programs associated with nutrition and dining programs in patient centered care is widespread. The patient centered programs related to nutrition and food that you are most likely to see (reported by at least three-quarters of the survey respondents) include:

  • Nutritionists and dietitians are available to answer the questions of patients, family and friends.
  • The nutritional or medical reasoning behind special dietary restrictions are clearly explained to patients.
  • Meals in the cafe are made with fresh ingredients and healthy options are always available.
  • Patients are offered choice in meals and menu items.
  • Patients are visited by someone from dining services who explaind the meunu, ordering procedures and how to contact dining services with questions, needs or concerns.
  • Menus and other informational materials are provided in primary languages of patients and families served by hospitals.

Within the next 12 months, the following programs will be added to the list of adoption by 75% or more of the survey respondents:

  • Staff that provide services related to dining services and amenities have patient centered expectations included in their performance evaluations.
  • Family and friends are offered opportunities to dine with patients in their rooms or in public/semi-private
  • areas in the hospital.
  • Family and friends are notified of available dining services and other amenities when they visit a patient.
  • Nutritional information for all menu items is included on menus.
  • Staff that take orders are trained or provided with information to respond to questions regarding nutrition
  • and menu items.
  • Hospital staff has access to nutritional information for food available at cafes and other venues in the
  • hospital.
  • The hospital offers training programs on nutrition and healthy eating to staff to promote health and wellness.

 

So all up it’s pretty exciting to see that customer service in healthcare is getting the attention it deserves. On this occasion a normally ancillary service – food and beverage – is being seen to play a major role in Hospital operations as part of a patient-centered model of care.

Excellent.

Grant Muddle

The Healthcare Warrior.

Serious Title. Serious Mission. Seriously:)

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