Marketing & Sales Tools
Understanding Their Role
The dietary services department in a hospital provides food for the patients, their families and the staff. The department is usually comprised of the chefs and servers like a traditional restaurant1, but it also includes clinical dietitians who provide nutritional therapy by coordinating with doctors to ensure each patient receives meals appropriate for their nutritional needs.2 Food is an integral part of patient care, and patients are assigned meal types such as liquid only, soft food, low-sodium, diabetic, high protein etc.
Dietary services make up a small percentage of a hospital’s expenses, and hospitals traditionally focused on cost reduction in this area.3 Food quality often became substandard when compared to general restaurants, and negative stereotypes about hospital food is now a part of American culture.4 However, in the modern hospital environment patient satisfaction and brand image are increasingly important and hospitals are placing renewed focus on food quality and variety. With the Affordable Care Act’s connecting reimbursements to patient experience ratings, the pressure to increase food quality and service levels will only intensify.5 6
The dietary services function is responsible for delivering the right meal to the right patient’s room, but the department usually manages a much broader range of food services including the cafeteria, vending machines, snack bars, cafes and food courts. They also provide nutritional counseling to patients with special dietary needs to help prepare them for life outside of the hospital.7
“Dietitians are experts in designing nutrition programs to protect health, prevent allergic reactions and alleviate the symptoms of many types of disease.”
1Griffin, Donald J. Hospitals: What They Are and How They Work . 4th ed. 40 Tall Pine Drive, Sudbury, MA 01776, 978-443-5000, www.jblearning.com: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012.
2 “Dietitian.” ExploreHealthCareers.org. December 2015. Accessed 12/16/15, available at: http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/career/139/diet...
3 Lee, Jaimy. “Changes on the Menu.” Modern Healthcare 43, no. 17 (2013): 28 – 29. EBSCOhost(87394421).
4 Jacoby, Lynne, and Brian Berger. “Time to Raise the Standards for FANS.” Hfm (Healthcare Financial Management) 67, no. 3 (2013): 92 – 98. EBSCOhost(86047732).
5 “4 Prescriptions.” FoodService Director 26, no. 5 (2013): 34A – 35B. EBSCOhost(87482728).
6 Santamour, Bill. “Mystery Meals No More.” H&HN: Hospitals & Health Networks 88, no. 3 (2014): 10. EBSCOhost(94904499).
7 See, as an example: “Dietary Services.” Comanche County Hospital Authority. Accessed 12/16/15, available at: http://www.ccmhonline.com/dietary-services
8 “Dietitian.” ExploreHealthCareers.org.
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