Parkview Hospital builds its strategy around the people it serves. For example, the 509-bed facility in Fort Wayne, Ind., worked to serve patients better by improving its food and nutrition services. It started its efforts by participating in benchmarking studies and visiting other hospitals with successful programs.
In the end, the staff decided on a "spoken menu" program. Instead of asking patients to fill out the traditional day-before menu checklist, hospitality associates talk to patients about their food choices 15 minutes before the meals are served.
For its in-house spoken-menu program, Parkview receives this year's Sodexho Marriott service award in the category of values integration.
In the program, food is cooked in the main kitchen and sent through dumbwaiters to kitchenettes on each floor. Hospitality associates tell patients the two entree choices for the specific meal. Associates then prepare trays in the kitchenettes, keeping the food warm on steam tables, and serve patients within 15 minutes.
Though the regular menu is limited, patients can voice their desires, and food will be specially prepared or sent from the hospital cafeteria. In addition, patients can order second helpings and meals or snacks at any time.
The hospital implemented the program in December 1995, and two quarters later, patient-satisfaction scores soared to the 99th percentile from the 37th percentile as measured by a national survey by Press, Ganey Associates. Since then, the department has maintained its high satisfaction.
By allowing patients to choose their meals restaurant-style, the hospitality staff solved many food-service problems. In the past, patient discharges, dietary changes and missed or late trays led to high food waste.
"We were remaking between 100 and 150 trays a day," says Cynthia Morphett, division director of dietetics and food services. "Now there's basically no food or trays thrown away."
As a result, costs have dropped to $4 per meal from $4.47 per meal. Starting the program cost about $80,000-spent mainly on new equipment and construction of the kitchenettes-but the program has more than seen a return on investment. Between 1996 and 1998, the department has saved $2.1 million on food, supplies and labor, Morphett says.
Patient interaction with the hospitality staff also has increased satisfaction, Morphett says. Staffers are assigned to specific patients so that each day one person goes over the menu, takes the order, serves the food and removes the tray. This consistency allows patients to "develop some communication (with the staff) and recognize who is coming into the room," says Jim Witmer, senior vice president of support services.
Food service staff also develop better rapport with the nursing staff. Hospitality associates work with nurses in each unit to determine the best time to serve meals, depending on when medication is distributed.
"It's broken the barrier between nursing and dietary," Morphett says. "Nurses can speak with our hospitality associates and tell them to check on or speak with certain patients. It's helped build good relations, which consequently benefits the patients."
Overall, the program benefits not only the patients but also the employees, demonstrating another of Parkview's stated values-recognizing employees, physicians and volunteers "as our most valuable resources."
Parkview retrained dietary staff members from their previous work on the tray lines to become hospitality associates.
"In the past they were laboring anonymously in the basement of the hospital, assembling trays. Now they're out all day interacting with patients, families and the staff on the floors," says Parkview President Frank Byrne, M.D. "They don't have to wonder what their overall role is in the success of the organization. They understand their role in making sure that Parkview meets or exceeds the service expectations of our patients."
Byrne says the project meets the hospital's value of "leadership-being accountable for quality care, excellent customer service and sound financial management."
"Spoken menu improves quality of service, improves customer service, improves the product we're providing in terms of the food, and demonstrates sound financial management by lowering the cost per meal," he says.