Marty’s Corner - The Human Touch
I will freely admit that if I can accomplish a task at a kiosk, on my laptop, or on my smartphone, I prefer that to speaking with someone. My job requires me to travel regularly and I’ll never forget my pleasant surprise when I walked into a Panera Bread in Virginia and immediately noticed several kiosks available for placing my order and paying for it. I even got a free cookie for using it! It’s not that I don’t like speaking with people; it’s just that I can ponder what I want to order and not feel pressured, make any of my desired substitutions, and quickly review my order for accuracy. The same goes for booking and changing my flights, hotel rooms, and rental cars (except for when I want to “negotiate” airline change fees, of course!).
On the other hand, when it comes to patient satisfaction with hospital foodservice, I’ve heard from several customers over the years that it tends to go up when more of the human touch is added. Staff who previously spent hours doing manual tasks (which I well remember from my clinical dietetics days) like heading and correcting menus, writing out nourishment labels, etc. are now able, due to automation of those tasks, to spend more time one-on-one with patients. And since patients associate those staff members with more pleasant activities like eating (as opposed to their phlebotomist), that person entering the patient’s room is often received positively. Those few minutes of friendly banter a couple of times a day can mean a lot to a patient.
That being said, technology in hospital foodservice has evolved to include the option of ordering from the in-room “edutainment” system. In some places this is also available via the patient’s smartphone. My reaction to this is mixed. Although I’m a Baby Boomer who obviously embraces technology, I’m not sure how members of the Traditional/Greatest generation might react to these options, especially when hospitalized. I’d probably love to see that nutrition associate each day, just to see a friendly face, yet I might want to change my order the minute he/she left my room. We’ve all seen those cartoons or photos on social media of millennials out on a date, texting each other instead of speaking. There’s a happy medium here. Let’s make the technology options available, but never forget the value of the human touch.
Article by: Marty Yadrick, MBI, MS, RDN, FAND - Director of Nutrition Informatics and former President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Fusion, 3rd Quarter, 2018