Aligning Management and Patient Centered Dining Strategies

(Part 2 of 3)

In the first installment of this series, we explained how dining programs in hospitals have evolved as hospitals shift to a patient centered model of care. In this installment, we will take a look at how management structures and strategies have or have not kept up.

There’s an old business adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. For hospitals that are developing a patient centered model of care, this is important. There is a big difference between rolling out a patient centered dining program and ensuring that program’s successful adoption.

For example, are you adding nutritional information about the food you are serving in order to check off a box, or are you ensuring that patients, staff and visitors are empowered to act upon that information in a way that has a positive impact on health and wellness? Are you offering pantries and kitchen areas for family and friends to prepare meals for their loved ones that remain unused? Are your community outreach programs based on a thoughtful and careful needs assessment, and have you designed the metrics and reports to measure the results?

Often, good programs fail in their execution because either the metrics and reporting have not been established, or no one is being held accountable for the results. In our experience, the most common reports used by the senior executives with responsibility for food and dining services are:

  • Budget to actual
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Employee satisfaction

Of course, this isn’t surprising since, regardless of your philosophy, these basic elements are critical to management. What is surprising, however, is that these are often the only reports used, regardless of how far along a hospital is towards implementing a patient centered model of care.

From a 2010 Unidine survey of 38 hospital executives with responsibility for dining programs.
From a 2010 Unidine survey of 38 hospital executives with responsibility for dining programs.

Similarly, most of the metrics used are components of the standard patient satisfaction survey, including the temperature of the food, the quality of the food and the courtesy of the server. One additional metric that is used frequently is correct meal ticket fulfillment, an important quality measure and performance measure, but one that applies regardless of the level of commitment to patient centered care.

Although nutrition and dining programs are important components of patient centered care in hospitals, the metrics, reporting and accountability necessary for success lag in development. And if it is true that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, then development of metrics that apply to the new programs that hospitals are implementing is essential.

In the final installment of this series, we’ll discuss best practices in patient centered guest services programs.