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TV Dinners

Most hospitals use telephones augmented by face-to-face “ambassadors” as the primary order-taking vehicle.

But at Scottsdale (AZ) Healthcare, patients have a high-tech alternative: their room TVs. The food menu is integrated into the entertainment and education menu on the TV, and the patient can use the remote control to navigate through the choices and do the ordering. “If you can use a TV remote, you can use the meal ordering system,” says Betty Stephenson, director of hospitality support services.

The advantage of the TV ordering is that it automatically integrates with the dietary tracking system so that each room's menu is customized to the patient in that room. “When the patient calls up the menu, he sees only what has been approved for his diet and allergies,” says Stephenson. “You only see what you can choose.”

The TV ordering option debuted about a year and a half ago, the same time that the full three-hospital system went to room service (one had already been doing it). It is currently utilized by about a fifth of room-service-eligible patients. Another third use the phone and the rest have bedside ordering from roving ambassadors.

Scottsdale Health, part of Skylight Healthcare System, is a 900-bed institution with three hospitals. Because they are separated by several miles, each has its own kitchen, but the room service call center is centralized.

So, why the TV order option?

“If you look at patient satisfaction, TV outranks food,” says Stephenson. “It is so important that patients will rate it above a lot of the clinical things that happen to them. I know because I also oversee our service call center and whenever a TV in a room is not working it is a major emergency. Putting the menu on the TV makes it more visual, more exciting and you give patients more control over when they want to order.”

In fact, she attributes a three percentile point bump on the hospital's overall satisfaction score solely to the room service program.

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