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How Can We Increase Patient Satisfaction for Meal Service in Hospitals?


We would like some ideas about how to achieve 90th percentile patient satisfaction for meals while maintaining a productivity benchmark of 25 percent.


First, it is definitely possible to achieve above the 90th percentile in patient satisfaction while maintaining a productivity benchmark of 25 percent. We were able to achieve this at the last two hospitals in which I worked.

Here are some specific tips on how to improve food services’ patient satisfaction scores:

  • Begin with the meal options. Is there a good variety? How are meal options explained to patients? If a patient has a special meal plan ordered by her doctor, what information is available to help her understand her meal options and how they work for her? For each of the above, consider how information is shared with the patient. Is it in writing? When the meal options are selected, is anyone available to answer her questions prior to turning them in? Could the process be managed up better? Best practices include using “room service” selections versus limited meal options. When food services comes by to pick up the meal selection, they can ask the patient if she has any questions about her meal options.
  • Next is delivery. When do meals show up at each floor? Review the timing of delivery. Round on each floor and ask nurses what feedback they have about the timing of meal services. Also ask if the food arrives at the proper temperature. Nurses are often the first to know how a patient feels about her meal service.
  • Presentation and service. How is the food presented to the patient? Develop key words and key actions around the presentation and delivery. We call this the five fundamentals of service (Acknowledge, Introduce, Describe, Explain, Thank you). You can learn more about AIDET at www.adeak.com. Just search on “five fundamentals.”

Here is an example with respect to food service:

  1. Knock on the door and ask permission to enter. Acknowledge the patient by name.
  2. Introduce yourself by your first name and department and state why you are there.
  3. Describe. Ask the patient where she would like her meal placed. Set it on her table, as appropriate. Show her the meal and reference how it was ordered to ensure you are delivering the correct meal.
  4. Explain. Ask the patient if you can assist her with getting the meal within reach. Offer to help her open anything (milk carton, lids, etc.). Provide her with a card that explains her special meal plan (if appropriate). Consider using a tray liner that includes your goal to provide “very good” service and offer a number for her to call if she has any concerns or questions.
  5. Finally, thank the patient. End by asking: “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
  • Hardwire the five fundamentals of service as described above. One of the best methods is for you or your managers to round with staff members when they are picking up or delivering the meals. Use a log that tracks each person’s performance: did he use all of the five fundamentals? Share these results with your staff members immediately.
  • Round regularly on each patient floor. Ask nurses and patients key questions that relate specifically to your patient satisfaction questions. Use your rounding log to capture the information you receive, track follow-up, and find trends.