We will be what we eat

Have you seen Food, Inc? Not that we need another health care problem, but this one, at least on the surface, seems to be a potentially mighty one.  (Disclosure: my bias is high as my sister is a food scientist.)  This exchange about genetically modified, mass produced food and increased caloric consumption leading to a higher incidence of diabetes is interesting:

Robert Kenner: When I was a kid we spent something like 18% of our income on food, today we spend about 9%.

Jon Stewart: So we’ve won!

RK: That’s great.  The fact is we have really inexpensive food which is great news. The problem is now, when I was kid health care costs were about 5% of our paycheck and today they’re about 18%.  …  We’re not going to be able to fix the health care system until we fix the food system.

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“Process ‘beats’ outcome,” hospital food tumblog

Hospitals should be scared of anecdotal stories.  The one time that surgery resulted in a mistake.  The one hospital stay with rude staff/patient interaction.  The one time that a communication breakdown between providers resulted in a longer stay.  Scared because the best (worst!) stories are powerful and they spread (and if it’s happened once, it’s likely happened again).  The “little” stuff matters, too.

Tom Peters, commenting on a Press Ganey survey, accurately writes:

(1) Process “beats” outcome in evaluating an “experience”—even one as apparently “outcome sensitive” as a hospital stay. The positive quality of staff interactions were more memorable than whether or not the health problem was fixed.
(2) Happy staff, happy customers. Want to “put the customer first”? Put the staff “more first”!
(3) Quality is free—and then some. We learned (well, most of us learned) when the “quality movement” dominated our consciousness that not only was quality free—but doing the quality thing right actually reduced costs, often dramatically.

With the attention being paid to patient satisfaction in hospitals today, it is interesting that organizations haven’t launched an all out assault on “process” elements (begging for 5s in Press Ganey’s patient satisfaction survey is far from such an effort).

Taking all of this into account, one might think that if a hospital appears on this Hospital Food tumblog (via Boing Boing), appropriate action would be taken.  Appropriate action, in this case, would be to completely reinvent the hospital food experience.

It’s A-L-L process “stuff” in the patient’s eyes.

Healthy food in hospitals

One of the most stunning contradictions in today’s hospitals is the unhealthful food they serve.  In a place dedicated to healing and healthful decision making a patron can find a wide array of dining options that are definitely not healthy.  Some hospitals even have fast food restaurants within their walls.  It all makes little sense.

Hospitals around the country continue to realize their error, most recently Hennpein County Medical Center in Minneapolis:

For the first time, “trans fat” has been wiped off the hospital menu.

HCMC says it’s the first hospital in the Twin Cities to go completely “trans-fat free” — eliminating or replacing 130 items, from cookies to snacks to refried beans, from its cafeterias and room service.

Yet other hospitals, too, have joined the growing national movement to shun trans fats because of the link to heart disease and obesity. (Star Tribune)