Throw Back Thursday: Hospital Food, Patient Satisfaction and Diabetes

By  |  November 6, 2014 | 

Last year on June 24, 2013, Dr. Brad Flansbaum blogged about an article in Kaiser Health news about hospitals improving food options in order to increase their patient satisfaction scores. In light of November being Diabetes Awareness Month, I wanted to bring Brad’s post back into the spotlight.

Patient nutrition is critically important for a patient’s recovery, and I’m especially mindful of this as my grandmother was a diabetic. It’s important for hospitals to make a concerted effort to provide quality, healthy foods to:

  1. Encourage healthy eating for patients who may not have good habits. It’s an opportunity to think about what dietary interventions might work to change behavior during a patient’s brief inpatient stay.
  2. Give patients the best possible chance for recovery. Patients might benefit from additional resources to reduce/prevent readmissions and expedite recovery.

I speak from experience with my 89-year-old grandmother who was hospitalized in the ICU about six years ago. At the time she had been diabetic for about 45 years and she was hospitalized for congestive heart failure and skyrocketed blood sugars (about 350). When they brought her the menu for breakfast in the morning, the offerings were not necessarily appropriate for her current state. With a smile on her face she ordered french toast with bacon. What?! That’s on the menu for an 89-year-old woman with diabetes and heart failure in the ICU?! …YIKES! She was clearly satisfied with her choice, but it was a completely inappropriate option for her and her recovery. Hospitals must do a better job. Was this a nutritional faux pas or a medical error and missed opportunity?

Yes, hospitals should be providing higher quality food and identifying opportunities for patient education, but not at the expense of health and not for the sole purpose of improving their patient satisfaction scores. Let’s not lose sight of our purpose here.

And so I ask, are your institutions modifying menus to improve patient satisfaction? Should they be?


MEMHeadshotMeghan Mallouk joined the Society of Hospital Medicine in May of 2013 and serves as the Senior Communications Manager. She is responsible for managing SHM’s online collaborative forum, Hospital Medicine Exchange (HMX), social media, and web marketing. She also is the managing editor for The Hospital Leader blog. Additionally, Meghan supports special projects related to medical students and residents, and business development.

Prior to joining SHM, Meghan worked for the Fairmount Park Conservancy as the Marketing & Membership Manager. She was responsible for the Conservancy’s individual giving programs, and marketing the various programs, services and events hosted and supported by the Conservancy and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. She graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in International Agriculture & Rural Development.


  1. jose November 9, 2014 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Si el paciente va a estar 4 ó 5 días en el hospital, y si la dieta baja en calorías no la va a comer porque le parece poco apetitosa, y se le puede ajustar la glucemia con insulinas rápidas… ¿por qué preocuparse y quitarle la satisfacción de comer lo que quiere?
    Y lo mismo pienso de las estúpidas dietas sin sal, son la mejor manera de malnutrir a los pacientes ingresados que por definición están en una situación catabólica

    En ambas situaciones… ASK THE PATIENT!

  2. Meghan Mallouk November 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Gracias por compartir tu opinión. Mi forma de pensar es que en el Hospital los doctores y enfermeras deben reafirmar los buenos hábitos. Estar hospitalizado es una buena forma de enseñarles a los pacientes una buena forma de alimentarse y mostrarles lo mejor para su salud. Porque no?

    Jose, Thank you for sharing your opinion. My thinking is that in the hospital doctors and nurses should reaffirm good habits with patients. When a patient is hospitalized, it’s a good opportunity to teach him/her good eating habits and show the what’s best for their health. Why not?

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