Good Hospital Food

Good Hospital Food - AppetizerI’ve been lucky enough to avoid hospitals most of my life and the two days following the birth of my baby daughter were the first time I spent the night in a hospital room. I was delighted at being able to carry my daughter, Arya, for the first time and I have high praise for the healthcare provided by the doctors and nurses.

However, the highlight of our time in the hospital was the good hospital food provided throughout my wife’s stay.

While I was not pleased with the guest bed in the hospital room, I didn’t want to leave my wife or our daughter and I ate all of my meals in the hospital room. It was inconvenient to leave the Mother-Infant-Unit (MIU) because of the newborn baby security system so I was happy about the interesting policy regarding the good hospital food served at Tufts Medical Center.

My wife was given explicit instructions for ordering food during her stay in the hospital. When we were moved into the MIU we found a menu with written instructions waiting for us when we entered her private room.

The comprehensive menu was divided into sections–breakfast, appetizers, entrees, desserts, drinks, sides–and my wife was allowed to order a specific number of items from each section for every meal. In addition to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my wife was allowed to order a late-night snack and an afternoon snack. For each of the three main meals, my wife could order two appetizers, two entrees, two sides, two desserts, and drinks. For each of the snacks, my wife could order one of each item plus drinks.

Good Hospital Food - EntreeEven though some women may have larger appetites than my wife, there is no way a new mother could eat eight, three course meals per day. It was obvious to us that I was not the only guest enjoying good hospital food.

I suspect insurance reimbursement affects the way the hospital provides food service. I doubt any insurance company would look favorably upon reimbursing the hospital for food provided to someone other than the patient. By limiting the volume of food my wife could order, the hospital can argue that it is only serving food to the primary patient. The fact the primary patient orders a lot of food and gives the “leftovers” to her husband is inconsequential.

The hospital food was terrific. I’m ashamed to admit that since we have been eating my cooking as my wife has been pregnant while in dental school, the quality of the food at the hospital was far superior than our normal meals at home. I do want to learn to be a better cook in the near future. The arrival of our daughter will force me — for both budgetary and splitting-duties-fairly reasons — to cook nearly every dinner for our family. But at least for a few days in the hospital following our baby’s birth, we enjoyed really yummy food.

Good Hospital Food - DessertThe normal hospital menu contained nearly 100 items split among the sections. I would describe the food as comparable to a casual-dining sit-down restaurant such as Applebees or Chilis. The sides were particularly good as the vegetables were fresh and the starches were well-prepared.

The day my wife was discharged we were each allowed to order a full, three-course meal from a special menu. The special meal was (again, I’m ashamed to admit) the best meal we had eaten in months. The special meal started with a fancy menu comparable in design and paper stock to a fine-dining, French restaurant. I particularly liked the cursive font because it made the filet mignon sound just a little more delicious. My wife’s favorite was the layered chocolate cake with fresh strawberries served with a small dollop of whipped cream.

I have no idea how much it costs Tufts Medical Center to provide good hospital food to its patients. However, I am sure that spending a little more money to serve quality food significantly affects patient assessment of quality-of-care. Tufts, like all hospitals receiving government reimbursement, sends out a post-stay questionnaire to its patients. Both my wife I know that the quality of the food should not influence our survey responses since the survey is used for meaningful assessments of quality-of-care. But when combined with the reality of having to eat my cooking, our memories of tasty hospital food definitively impacted the overall rating we provided to the hospital.