Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Big Three: Cleanliness, Courtesy, Food

Last month, I co-led a course at an American College of Healthcare Executives conference with my consultant friend, Gail Scott. With the title, "Beyond the Silver Bullet: Ensuring Employee and Patient Satisfaction," I shared my thoughts at one point in the course about the three areas where most patients will judge hospitals. These are cleanliness, courtesy, and food.

Recently, Anthony Stanowski, one of the particpants in the course, wrote about this course in his blog, Observations on Operations. You can read it here. Anthony raises some excellent points about "why food matters" when it comes to patient satisfaction, even though it is not directly measured by HCAHPS.

Why cleanliness, courtesy, and food? Because most patients are able to best judge things they are familiar with, like being treated with courtesy and compassion, enjoying a clean and safe environment, and eating tasty food. Patients know if the room isn't clean. They know if the staff was courteous or not. Although typically not feeling well, they can still determine how the food tasted to them.

What most patients don't know is the technical stuff. Most of us aren't able to judge whether or not their physician made the right decisions about diagnosis or treatment. Few of us really know if the nursing staff technically handled their situation correctly. But we know if our food is cold or doesn't taste good. We know when we are treated with special care and attention. We can easily see if things are dirty or unkempt. This is what the majority of patients know about and that's where we have to work a little harder to be impressive. If we make sure that the hospital, the entire hospital, looks clean and orderly, that patients are greeted by friendly, compassionate people, and that the food they eat is tasty and served at an appropriate temperature, then folks have a sense of satisfaction.

Clearly patients expect and deserve competence in their care. I believe it is the service that really differentiates one hospital from another. Individualized and personal care; along with fresh and tasty food make for an excellent patient experience. I am proud of the people dedicated to doing just that day in and day out at GRMC. Striving for the best possible outcomes with an obsession for service, with an eye to efficiency and cost containment is our goal.

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