Communication, communication, communication is the trend when talking patient satisfaction. Hospital consumer assessment for a healthcare provider and systems HCAHPS has changed the paradigm in how healthcare is to improve patient satisfaction. The trend in healthcare satisfaction is to create a positive perception of what is offered, whether presenting a meal, cleaning a room, maintaining a quiet environment, dispensing medication, controlling pain and so on. Healthcare now realizes that in most hospitals, the top ten patient satisfiers are not clinical indicators but how healthcare professional address the responsiveness of services, emotional needs, and staff behaviors concerning the patient experience. In essence it comes down to the staff in how he or she is trained in communicating effectively and more important LISTENING to the customer.
As a hospital director of hospitality and service sxcellence and in my opinion, food services has a leg up on what the healthcare industry is now experiencing, when it comes to creating a positive experience. With that said, the stakes has been raised and the competition is fierce. If that was not enough, reimbursements are more challenging than ever, with limited dollars and the focus on improving overall hospital patient satisfacion. What is required is a strategic approach in building awareness with staff, and to have each member of the team understand that attitudes and behaviors must change to improve outcomes. Most of us understand that leadership is important but broadcasting a consistent message is everyone’s job. The healthcare industry cannot not over reacting to trends and to create a focused critical mass of employees there needs to be achievable expectations and goals.
It takes more than saying hello, thank you, and smiling to improve patient satisfaction results. What needs to be is explained at customer service training sessions is soft-skill are not so soft and smiles is a business requirement, along with there is no shortage of quantifiable data available to our consumer. We stress the importance of knowing what the consumer is saying about us, and from this information develop strategic steps to improve outcomes.
Food operators need to be mindful of waste both in food and labor when balancing food costs and the amount of labor it takes to deliver a good meal. With the sophistication of patient survey information, operators need to know and react to the data that is collected. There are many food trends but today it is all about knowing what is happening at your location. Good operators know this but there is no shortage of food opinions.
To say room service is the answer is wrong. What needs to happen during the decision process is to improve services by taking into account the demographics, ethnicity, social economic mix, education, and ages of the consumer, just to name a few areas operators need to understand. To improve patient satisfaction does not mean to scrap everything but to make quantified changes by focusing of menu selections, diet education, delivery process, and most important service levels that would be most noticeable by the customer.
Since we are talking food trends I am pleased to report a 50% increase in café revenues, and a 40% increase in vending revenues. I am also happy to report that our overall hospital satisfaction scores are up from the previous year. Numbers such as this just does not happen without strategic planning. There was no magic bullet or that “one thing” fix for this type success. What was learned is by effectively listening to the consumer we were able to set in place a strategic process. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that no food service equipment/layout modification where required to achieve these results, it was strictly service style and menu changes.
In conclusion healthcare just does not just mean hospitals but a spectrum of varying facility types, including but not limited to daycare, homecare, rehab, nursing home, and assisted living, which is why operators need to be careful not to jump on a food trend just because it is working in another market. Understand, HCAHPS does not have any specific questions when it comes to food but it does focus on the responsiveness of staff, and a bad, wrong, or late meal does not help with the HCAHPS scoring. A good rule of thumb is to keep to the basics, hot food hot, cold food cold, and service with a smile, which will never go out of style.