If you work in the hospital food service industry, you may be interested in updating and improving your hospital menu, but have not had an opportunity to do so. If so, now may be the time to finally change things around. According to a recent article published by USA Today, hospitals across the U.S. are improving their food service in response to initiatives put in place by the Affordable Care Act.
The news source explained that Medicare has begun paying hospitals based on patient satisfaction scores, which has been encouraging them to provide higher-quality food to their patients. USA Today spoke to one patient at Rex Hospital in Wake Forest, N.C. who said that she was expecting mystery meat and Jell-O when they delivered her meal. However, what she got instead was Caribbean grilled chicken salad, Philly-style cheesesteaks, orzo salad and baked potato wedges.
Better food, happier patients
According to the news source, Rex is among many hospitals that are adopting hospital room service, where patients can order what they want off of a large menu, rather than have the same meal delivered to everyone.
Many hospitals are even setting up their own gardens so they can grow their own vegetables, or a partnering with local farmers to get fresh produce. The news source spoke to Jim McGrody, director of food and nutrition at Rex, who said that improving hospital food helps boost the overall experience, and the results are clear. About 84 percent of patients at Rex said they were satisfied with their experience in the hospital, compared to 71 percent of patients nationwide.
“I have no doubt that raising the culinary bar improves our customer-satisfaction scores,” Chad Lefteris, vice president of operations at Rex, told the news source.
Furthermore, providing higher-quality food may save hospitals money in the long run. USA Today explained that hospitals can save thousands of dollars each year from reduced waste alone by letting people order their own food, and there are many options at some places. For example, UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, N.C., has a 20-page menu that offers everything from cereal and eggs to burritos. Previously, the hospital would simply give patients one or two options and many of them were getting cold food they didn’t want. Since adopting this new menu, food costs fell by $400,000 in one year.
“It’s been a game-changer for us,” Angelo Mojica, director of food and nutrition services at UNC, told USA Today.
Also, the better quality increases the number of people who choose to eat at on-site cafeterias, which is another way hospitals are making more money.
Hospitals have even begun holding competitions sponsored by the Association for Healthcare Foodservice to see who can create the best meals.
Of course, sometimes patients may choose meals that are not good for them to eat with their particular condition, but hospitals are working on that as well to make sure that patients don’t exceed their fat, sodium or calorie limits.
“A heart patient may get the fried chicken for lunch, but we tell them they may only get a salad for dinner,” Mojica told the news source.
Change has been happening for a while
This isn’t the first time that the hospital food service system has been overhauled. A 2011 article published in The Huffington Post explained that hospitals were trying to introduce more fresh vegetables into their meals and provide patients with more options.
The news source explained that top restaurant veteran chef Pnina Peled provided Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center with healthy and creative dishes for young patients with cancer, particularly those with restrictive diets.
Hospitals that are changing their menus may want to get the word out to the community.