Meal service with a smile can drive patient satisfaction

January 8, 2015

Hospital-Meals-Study-UNTHSC

If it’s true that the way to a person’s heart is through his stomach, then it shouldn’t be too surprising that meal service with a smile can enhance the way patients judge their hospital stays.

A study by Martin Ostensen, a Master of Health Administration student in UNTHSC’s School of Public Health, has correlated positive meal and nutrition experiences in hospitals with higher patient-satisfaction scores.

Ostensen, as part of a MHA internship project for the Office of Patient Centeredness at Baylor Scott and White Health, Dallas, compiled his findings from months of research, hospital site visits and analysis.

He concluded that food service workers who “genuinely interact” with patients, know their names, acknowledge their preferences and needs, and make patients feel important are key to driving positive hospital experiences.

In looking at the two main methods of food service – traditional tray delivery at set times versus room service, where meals are by order and presented with more menu options within 45 minutes – Ostensen found staff attitude, rather than delivery type, to be the main ingredient for satisfaction.

“The good news is that meal staff work hard and do their jobs well. The difference is in the degree of service. Some people are doing a job, and some people are meeting the needs of customers,” he said.

“The staff who made patients a priority, knew the mission and intentionally lived it out at the patient level came through as the real ‘rock stars.’ They had a joy in their hearts. They were different.”

Following graduation in 2015, Ostensen will add an MHA to an already impressive list of credentials, including Master of Business Administration degrees from both Cornell University and Queen’s University, Ontario, in Canada, and a law degree from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

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