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Turning Patient Surveys into Actionable Foodservice Results

October 6, 2020
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Do you think your hospital has excellent food service? If you ask patients and staff, the truth may surprise you. Many healthcare organizations are turning to patient and staff surveys to shed light on how their kitchen is really doing at feeding and satisfying patrons.

Surveys are a low-cost, high-yield way to improve your operation and create positive change during challenging times. During such times — especially for healthcare organizations facing mergers or acquisitions — it’s important for your staff and patients to feel heard and happy. Surveys provide that opportunity. They also offer anonymity, which protects respondents’ negative feedback or construction criticism.

It might seem strange to invest in food service while many hospitals are losing revenue due to the pandemic. However, food is a necessity for patients and staff. Delicious, comforting and adventurous foodservice raises morale, improves patient recovery and can help recoup lost revenue due to COVID-19 through grab ‘n go, food service promotion and food trucks. For these reasons, it’s important to value the opinion of your customers and patients.

Patients surveys have provided valuable insights for various healthcare organizations.

Rush-Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Ill. revamped its foodservice to allow patients to choose from a restaurant-style menu whenever they wanted to eat. They structured their operations like room service in a hotel, which allowed patients to order anything from a menu, as long as the kitchen was open.

The hospital reported a 20% increase in patient satisfaction scores as a result of the revamp. It also projected annual savings of more than $18,000 through less food waste.

Northern Westchester Hospital improved its patient satisfaction in foodservice up to 90 percent through their Food is Care program. Through the initiative, patients are served meals that have been cooked with locally-grown fruits and vegetables according to their dietary needs and preferences. The program also included in-person nutrition education.

In addition to improving patient satisfaction, Food is Care eliminated the need for batch cooking.

Food service surveys highlight what you are doing well and areas you need to improve. This feedback creates efficiencies for your kitchen and foodservice management, which can reduce food waste and improve meal planning. Or, it can inspire a massive overhaul.

But improving patient and staff satisfaction doesn’t always require big change. Small improvements to food quality alone can bump your numbers. A Press Ganey focus group revealed that patients perceive the process of meal service as a positive aspect of their stay at the hospital.

With this in mind, how can you capitalize on that insight and make patients’ experience better?

Here are a few short tips:

  1. Remember that foodservice is about the experience as much as it is about ingredients. How patients are served their food and their experience working with staff contributes to their perception of your operation. Consider their environment and customer service to generate improvement.
  2. Focus on value rather than volume. Batching meals is efficient, but not always palatable for diners. Food has meaning. It is more than just mass-produced sustenance. It is nostalgic, cultural and comforting. Find ways to tap into these important elements in your menu. (Pro-tip: speed-scratch cooking can save time on food prep without skimping on flavor.)
  3. Emphasize training. Your staff are food service ambassadors. Do not invest in changes without communicating those changes to the people who will interface with patients!
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