UPMC Shadyside Patient Menu

Intervention Title:
Providing More Food Options to Increase Patient Satisfaction – University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), Pittsburgh, Pa.

Improve patient autonomy and satisfaction to place a greater focus on faster healing.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center expanded its menu, allowing patients to choose foods freely.

Results include an increase in patient satisfaction and higher consumption of meals.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
200 Lothrop St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2582
P: (412) 647-8762

From the experts:
“It makes sense that patients want comfort food when they are in the hospital. When we realized some of our patients felt starved since they would not eat the meals provided, we knew change was necessary. We listened to our patients and learned about their preferences to develop new choices, which has resulted in improved satisfaction as well as better nutrition.”

Joyce Scott-Smith, M.S., R.D.
Director, Food & Nutrition and Dietetic Internship
UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is composed of 19 hospitals and a network of other care sites across western Pennsylvania and throughout the world.

Clinical areas affected:

  • Medical/surgical units

Staff involved:

  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Dieticians
  • Patient relations

Staff spent 18 months developing and testing the new menu.

Joyce Scott-Smith, M.S., R.D.
Director, Food & Nutrition and Dietetic Internship
UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside
P: (412) 623-2193

Innovation implementation:
When physicians began to notice that patients were not getting good nutrition because they were not eating what was provided, staff at UPMC recognized the need to provide new meal offerings. Patients expressed dissatisfaction with food service because they felt that their preferences were not being respected and that hospital staff members were forcing patients to eat “the way they wanted them to” instead of how they eat when at home. Renal physicians expressed concern that patients were “being starved.”

Patients were interviewed to better understand their perspectives on diet and food. They felt they were forced to eat at specific times and often were not receiving what they requested. Many patients indicated that they were stressed, tired and uncomfortable and wanted comfort food.

Physicians, nurses, dieticians and patient relations staff worked together to better understand patient perspectives and develop new menu options. An expanded open menu was developed that included nutritional symbols to educate patients on different types of food, such as which foods are high fat or high sodium. Patients were allowed to choose foods freely from the new menu and were served what they selected.

Advice and lessons learned:

  1. Free the food. Patients don't abuse power when given food options.
  2. Patients won't change in the short term. Recognize that patients' food habits cannot be changed during a short hospital stay. While dietary counseling is important, a hospital stay is not supposed to be a diet boot camp.

Cost/benefit estimate:
Benefits included a 58 percent increase in the number of patients who rate dietary service as “exceeds or greatly exceeds expectations”; a 25 percent increase in the number of patients who consumed 75 percent or more of their meal; a 36 percent increase in basic and brief diet instruction to patients; and an 18 percent decrease in calls to the kitchen for a second tray or additional items.