Health administration student finds key to patient satisfaction


Published: December 15, 2014

HappyMeal

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the old adage, but meal service with a smile makes the difference between good and great, according to findings from a UNT Health Science Center student researcher.

A study by Martin Ostensen, UNTHSC School of Public Health, has correlated positive meal and nutrition experiences in hospitals with higher patient satisfaction scores.

As part of a Master of Health Administration (MHA) internship project for the Office of Patient Centeredness at Baylor Scott and White Health, Dallas, Ostensen conducted months of research, hospital site visits and analysis to conclude that food service workers who “genuinely interact” with patients, know their names, acknowledge their preferences and needs, and make patients feel important are key in driving positive hospital experiences.

In looking at the two main methods of food service – traditional tray line 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 that 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,” he said.

The impetus behind this study came from a Baylor senior leader whose spouse had been a patient, leading to discussions on ways to achieve the highest positive impact on care and service within the Baylor system.

Following graduation in 2015, Ostensen hopes to find his own health care leadership position, adding his MHA to an already impressive list of credentials, including Master of Business Administration degrees from both Cornell University and Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada, and a law degree from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.