Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I love BIDMC

This is why I love my hospital. Everyone feels the right to complain and to suggest. And generally, the complaints and suggestions are received nondefensively, evaluated, and acted upon. Here's an example.

First, Research Administrator Diane writes to Carol, who runs the food service in the staff/visitor cafeteria, and she also copies me on the email.

Hi Carol,

I went to the Ullian Café today after my workout to get some lunch. I usually avoid the grill section due to the unhealthy choices that it has to offer, but today I saw folks with what appeared to be a simple burger made with a tortilla, so I checked it out.

I saw that this special came as a duo, i.e., 2 tortilla’s for the $4.75 price. Both parties before me asked if they could get only one, and were told no.

I bought the special and then came back to my desk to check out the nutrition info.
If this is correct, from the website, I just had 1480 calories in just the “special”. I also would have preferred to have gotten only one.

What really got my attention though was the fat %. In just one meal, a lunch, I consumed 210% of my daily fat allowance!

For a health institution, I find that absurd! Isn’t there some other way to get good tasting healthy food from our café?

Why can’t people by only 1? Why wasn’t this info posted on the sign for the special? And if you can’t buy one then you should show the real numbers for the total meal.

Normally, I don’t get upset about some of the choices you offer as I can tell visually that they are high fat, calories or sodium, but this item had me fooled and I’m sure it has fooled others.


I write back to Carol, with a copy to Terry Maratos-Flier, a faculty member with a strong interest in obesity:

Good points, Diane. Carol, what do you think?


Carol responds:

Good Morning Diane,

Thank you for your feedback! The Quesadilla Burger which is the special for the week was brought back because of popular demand. We do offer many Wellness Items on the menu daily and hopefully you have seen some of the items such as grapes,fresh fruit cups, strawberry yogurt parfait (utilizing local strawberries), celery with ranch or peanut butter, hummus with pita, Chobani Greek yogurt as well as entrees and specialty sandwiches. The entrees and sandwiches are marked with a Wellness logo and we also feature vegetarian options daily. We have lowered the sodium in our soups, sandwiches and entrees.

Regarding the Quesadilla Burger and only being able to buy two, I spoken to staff and going forward they will offer the option for 1. I apologize for this inconvenience.

Thank you again for your feedback, we are always looking to add new items and improve our performance. I can be reached at [phone] or email if you have any further questions or suggestions.


Terry also pitches in with a suggestion and copies Nora, who also works in food services:

I'd like to make the following suggestion which is to differentially price the single and double quesadilla's. There is emerging evidence that pricing to a degree drives "healthy" food choices. Consumers are more likely to buy a diet drink if the sweetened drink costs more. I also think the calories ought to be posted as they are for the soup, salads and other items.

Since we are a healthcare institution I think "nudging" people towards better health choices is and at the same time educating them should be part of our mission. 1400 calories is close to the daily requirement for some people and $4.95 is a price that encourages this consumption. I would guess that if you priced a single at $3.75 a significant number would opt for the single, even though it costs more than half. This would be an easy experiment to do, data obtained from the cash register.

Nora responds:

That is a wonderful suggestion, we priced the double at $4.75 and the single at $3.50. We can take a look at data to see the effect.


(Meanwhile, Elisabeth Moore, one of our nutritionists, is on national television talking about serving sizes. We might not always practice what we preach, but we keep trying!)


e-Patient Dave said...

Great discussion.

Re the pricing, my gut(!) wonders why there's so *little* difference in price. You may have extras included in the price, e.g. a side, so maybe linear pricing wouldn't be strictly rational; but in MY not-very-healthy mind, I read "$3.50 for one, or another for just $1.25 more! Such a deal!"

I'd urge that the second one cost at LEAST 50% more ($5.25). Consider it a "fat tax"?

p.s. Thanks for having so many healthy options there - it's a good place, unlike the crap that's served at break time in Harvard Medical School conferences - Coke and cookies, with fresh fruit rarely seen! :)

Anonymous said...

I would have to agree with Dave about the pricing issue...many people will see the double as a "bargain" and opt for two even if they only want one. I also agree about posting nutrition information for as many food options as possible. The hospital I work in has done that and it has been eye-opening! Even as someone with an education in and passion for health promotion, I was shocked at some of the caloric values of seemingly healthy dishes. I have changed my buying and eating habits based on this info being posted at the food stations. Also, back to pricing - our hospital has started to offer healthy "meal deals" with a reduced price and they seem to attract folks that might not otherwise make those choices. Great post - thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Obviously, you added value to the exchange by including your expert faculty member, and by encouraging a thoughtful response from the food service. However, I am curious that the original writer copied the CEO in a complaint about the food. Is this typical?


Anonymous said...

It is typical here! I don't know about other hospitals, but people here like me to be involved and informed, and I enjoy it, too.

Anonymous said...

Then let me tell your BIDMC staff that they are very lucky people to have such a responsive and involved CEO. This is definitely NOT typical.


Anonymous said...

There is a disconnect between the food available in the caf and the emphasis on employee wellness. It would be wonderful to see some low calorie/low fat options that are specials of the day. After a while the fruit, vegetables and yogart just drive you to other places where there is a better variety of healthy choices. BIDMC can do better by its employees, patients and visitors who try to live a healthy life style..

BTW - after 4 PM you don't have to worry there is not much left.

Peter said...

I love that BIDMC follows up on small things like this-- great organizational follow up to not let things like this get lost in a bureaucracy of forwarded emails.