On-demand room service improves patient experience

Food Services lean blogNo matter how great the care, it’s hard for a hospital to replicate the freedom and comfort of home.

But even if patients aren’t able to get up and make a grilled cheese sandwich, Food & Nutrition Services determined that giving patients more control and power over food choices certainly goes a long way to increasing the feeling of freedom during their hospital stay.

To impact the patient experience, the department utilized Lean tools to help transition from predetermined meal times to an on-demand room service model that allows patients to order meals at their convenience from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

The staff worked hard to gear up for the May launch of the program.

One of the first Lean steps was to “5S” the area. This workplace organization tool stands for sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain. Any broken, unused equipment was repaired, replaced or removed. Everything got a deep cleaning. Tools and drawers were labeled and standardized.

Daily huddles were implemented to share pertinent information with all employees and allow for problem solving. Idea boards were installed to allow employees to recommend solutions, since they know the job better than anyone else.

While planning the transition, the team mapped each step that happens from the time a meal is called in until it is delivered. After analyzing the flow to look for inefficiencies, staff performed a series of simulations, using poker chips as food, to try to identify where the problems may occur prior to going live with the changes.

Work continued after the launch.

Staff continued to seek out root causes of any setbacks and develop solutions. The idea board was a popular tool. For example: runners taking trays to patients now double-check the order against the tray before ever leaving the kitchen, ensuring accuracy and providing an opportunity to make immediate corrections.

Quality metrics are tracked at every meal and discussed in the daily huddles. One of the quality measures tracked is the delivery time of food, which is 45 minutes from the time the food is ordered. When targets aren’t met, the team discusses the issues at the huddles, pinpoints why they’re happening and takes action.

Beth Dorsey, the director of Food & Nutrition Services, said data is already showing progress. Food waste has been cut in half and patient satisfaction scores are improving. Patients who checked the top box of being “very satisfied” with their meals jumped from about 30 percent to more than 40 percent in May when the program was first unveiled. With the “go live” issues ironed out, she anticipates patient satisfaction will rise even more.

Throughout the entire Lean transformation, there’s been another marked improvement, she said. “It’s really been an amazing culture change here because the staff has really embraced the tools that Lean provided to us to improve our ability to care for patients.”

Staff is empowered to share their ideas and be engaged in the solution, she said, and with greater accountability comes greater opportunities for coaching. Managers went from a “tell-me-the-problem-and-I-can-fix-it” mentality to a “tell-me-the-problem-and-I-will-support-you-to-make-sure-this-is-fixed” approach.

“Ultimately, we’re in the business of nourishing our patients and fresh, quality food is at the heart of that goal,” Dorsey said. “Lean has given us a framework to work as a team to do our part in improving the patient experience.”

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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