Don’t Forget the Ketchup!

September 4, 2012
William Balfour

Increase Patient Satisfaction in Dietary Services and Improve Overall Hospital Scores!

Late trays and/or unappealing food are major patient dissatisfiers and can cause a hospital to receive a lower all-over patient satisfaction score. Food is an extremely important source of entertainment and pleasure for many individuals, and for hospitalized patients who are bored or anxious, dietary services often takes on increasing importance. Here are a few ideas submitted by hospital peers to increase patient satisfaction in both traditional and Room Service models!

Room Service, Please!

  • Room Service is a very appealing idea for many patients ” but if you offer limited service hours, make sure to phone all patients who have not ordered by an hour before services stop and remind them of service end time
  • Ensure proper patient understanding of room service through simplified instructions
  • Have the tray service attendants obtain all menus to ensure that patients get what they want the first time
  • Call patients if they have not ordered a meal within a set time frame

Preventing Late Trays (No Room Service)

  • To keep food fresh when delivered, make extra trays (cook/chill) and heat some at mealtimes, keeping some cold for late tray use
  • Call or visit nursing stations/patient rooms about an hour before meal times to verify changes in diet, admit status, hold trays, etc. and avoid any late trays

Evaluate and Train

  • Meet twice monthly with Hosts, Chefs and their Supervisors to discuss options to service models, alternate offerings to the existing menus within diet restrictions and discuss working relationships within the Team
  • Use an internal survey that is placed on the patient trays each meal to get real time information and act on concerns and opportunities for service recovery immediately
  • Provide customer service training for designated servers and evaluate customer service skills, addressing any areas of need
  • Conduct monthly in-house patient surveys to gather feedback specifically about dietary services
  • Have management occasionally help pass trays, providing an opportunity to gather feedback directly
  • Round on patients daily to explain menu choices and gather feedback about menu choices and food quality
  • Conduct “light” scripting exercises, where staff practice appropriate responses to patient questions (as opposed to verbatim responses)
  • Share patient satisfaction results on a regular basis and post metrics publicly each month
  • Adjust par levels to ensure that you’re properly supplied

Special Populations and Snacks

  • Provide afternoon snack carts
  • Prepare fresh fruit baskets for new parents in OB
  • Offer refreshment cart with beverages and snacks for the family of palliative care patients
  • Offer room service meals to a parent of a pediatric patient
  • Offer light snacks to family members of ED patients
  • Provide “Grab-n-Go” meals after hours
  • Ensure that diabetic patients receive meals within 30 minutes of ordering

Going the Extra Mile

  • Improve food choices and menu selections where feedback dictates, and use colorful menus
  • Adjust meal times so that they do not coincide with nurse shift changes
  • Utilize farm fresh produce where possible – and let patients know
  • Ensure that trays are never left in an empty room – a cold tray is a major dissatisfier. If patient is not currently in room, determine when they will return and provide meal at that time
  • Don’t forget the ketchup – ask patients about condiments!


These are just a few strategies in place at hospitals that have increased patient satisfaction. The iVantage KnowledgeWeb, collaboration that works, has thousands more ideas to incorporate into your own best practice.

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