Obamacare Spurs Food Reform in Hospitals

June 25, 2013
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Oddly enough, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is being credited with spurring big improvements in the quality and convenience of hospital food.

Oddly enough, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is being credited with spurring big improvements in the quality and convenience of hospital food. Regular readers know I’m a fan of patient experience surveys; see for example my post on how hospitals are focusing on noise reduction to improve their scores on such surveys and get bonuses from Medicare.Image

More than once I’ve heard physicians scoff at the idea of patient experience surveys, asking, ‘why should we be rated on what patients think of the food?’ As I politely point out, patient experience surveys don’t actually ask about food. They do ask about how well doctors and patients communicate with patients, how well pain is controlled, and whether patients receive adequate discharge information. I’d argue that those are definitely relevant issues where patients’ views matter.

However there are a couple general questions about how patients  rate the hospital overall and whether they would recommend it to friends and family. And apparently some hospitals have used this as a jumping off point to improve food service. What’s interesting is that those who are following that path are saving money at the same time they are increasing service levels.

From Kaiser Health News:

“The economics are hard to resist, say food service consultants.  Hospitals can save thousands of dollars a year just from reduced waste by letting patients order meals room-service style. At the same time, better quality boosts business for on-site cafeterias. And better food can also help a hospital attract more patients by improving its image, said Bill Klein, CEO of DM&A, a California consulting firm…

Food costs at the hospital fell by $400,000 in the first year of its “restaurant delivery” system because items not served to patients during peak meal periods are sent to hospital cafeterias to avoid waste.

‘It’s been a game changer for us,’ said Angelo Mojica, director of food and nutrition services at UNC.”

So let’s get this straight. If this article is right it took ObamaCare to get hospitals to do something good for patients that is also a cost saver. Sounds like a pretty good argument for health reform.

image: goodfood/shutterstock

By David E. Williams of the Health Business Group.