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Walter Thurnhoffer: Transforming the Patient Meal Experience

Walter Thurnhoffer: Transforming the Patient Meal Experience

Patients in today’s hospitals are expecting more. They are well-traveled, well-versed in fine cuisine, and they demand higher quality, better service and better value.

“You could have all the medical technology in the world, but what patients remember is the care and service they receive,” said Walter Thurnhofer, RD, senior director of support services at the University of Washington Medical Cetner, where patient dining has been transformed into one of the hospital’s centers for excellence.

What began as large-scale food production where special requests were challenging has made the leap to a place where the focus is on one meal at a time and where room service rules. Much of this was achieved by listening to patients, Thurnhofer said.

“Patients said, ‘Let me choose when I eat; I want lots of variety,’” he said. Thurnhofer and his team installed a wireless, web-based temperature montioring system to further ensure a quality dining experience.

Other improvements include a patient menu translated into 10 languages, the elimination of the deep fat fryer, and monthly meetings with nurse managers to improve communication.

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