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Interested in improving food service without breaking the bank? Mary P. Malone, MS, JD, executive director of consulting services at Press, Ganey in South Bend, IN, has a list of relatively cheap and straightforward ideas that some of her clients have implemented.
Most have led to significant increases in food quality scores on patient satisfaction surveys. The first three ideas led to an increase from 66.5 to 70.2 points on the food quality scores in patient satisfaction surveys:
1. Riverside Methodist Hospital, which is part of OhioHealth in Columbus, instituted taste panels before every patient tray line to engage staff in looking for improvement opportunities. Participants in the panel included managers, dietitians, supervisors, cooks, and tray-line personnel.
2. Although the Riverside food department is responsible for tray delivery, it sought to increase interaction with patients. Someone visits all new patients, describes the diet the physician has ordered, and provides additional information about available services.
3. Riverside also focuses on appetizing plate presentation and garnishes as simple touches that can make a difference to patients.
4. At Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, CA, breakfast is served on demand from a breakfast cart. Every morning, the cart is taken to the patient floors. This has replaced the traditional tray line and trays.
5. Since it caters to children, Valley Children’s Hospital offers restaurant-style food, which kids frequently request.
6. Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Midland, TX, includes a 25% discount coupon for the cafeteria in its food and nutrition admissions packet for patients’ visitors to use.
7. Patients at Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia are visited following meal delivery to determine if they got everything they ordered and if they wanted something else.
8. Presentation is important, so Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, NC, tries to emulate how food is presented in a home environment. Rather than using packaged drinks and cereals, they pour their own. They have increased scratch baking and enhanced their salad mix.
9. Using better dishes, cloth napkins, and eliminating plastic bags with tiny paper napkins and cheap eating utensils further enhances the dining experience at Moses H. Cone.
10. In Lubbock, TX, Covenant Medical Center has made a concerted effort to focus on improving patient perceptions with explanations regarding special diets. A registered dietitian conducts special inservice programs for the staff of several cardiac units. The education blitz includes an information sheet that nurses provide to patients upon admission. The sheet includes basic information on diets for cardiac care, diabetes, reduced sodium, and test diets common to cardiac care. In 1998, the mean food service question score improved from the 57th percentile to the 93rd percentile when compared to all hospitals.
"As these stories show, the paths to improvement are as varied as our clients," says Malone. But the common element is team involvement. And she has one last tip: "Stop calling them late trays,’" she says. "If you call them that, no matter how fast you get them to the floor, they’ll always be late. Use the term courtesy tray’ instead."