To Be the Best

When you think about your career — when you think about your industry — what is it that you think about most?

Laura Watson, System Director, Patient Support ServicesFor me, as a healthcare foodservice professional in a self-operated system, I always focus on the same theme. Are we doing the right things in the best ways possible? For our patients? Customers? Employees? Community? When the thousand details of my day are all wrapped up, it's these larger questions that challenge me to think about the bigger picture and the role I play in it.

The challenges come from the demand of the industry — the Affordable Care Act, the demand to do more with less, the need to create efficiencies while also improving the patient experience. The resources come from my involvement in the Association for Healthcare Foodservice, with its members and the benchmarking data that allows me to track outcomes, show comparisons and then use it to tell a story to my system and communicate impactful progress at a glance. And the motivation comes from the need to show senior leadership we are aligned and engaged with their goals and we are delivering on our promises.

Our patients always come first and we deliver nutritious meals to meet their physical needs. As keepers of the hospitality experience, we also deliver service excellence to meet the psychological and emotional needs of our patients. It's incumbent upon us to create a healing environment where patients not only know they can get better but they also feel good about their experience in the moment of delivery and service interaction. We serve smiles with every meal.

The retail side is critical, too. This is the side the public sees most often: staff, visitors, hospital leadership and the community. In this arena, culinary excellence is critical. We can be creative, flexible and responsive. We can showcase local ingredients and regionalize our healthy, fresh, flavorful and familiar menus. We can show our chefs are aligned with our system's philosophy of keeping our communities healthy, so patients and staff can experience healthy recipes at our facilities and then learn from them, so they can duplicate them for their own enjoyment.

Healthcare reform demands we become stewards of healthy living in both our facilities and in our communities. We become a test kitchen for new, healthy experiences, for trying new ingredients and feeling comfortable making our healthy recipes at home. We have a role in changing community trends toward healthy choices and becoming the leaders that inform and engage a new wave of culinary experiences: fresher and healthy.

For my executive team, community integration joins clinical excellence as a top priority, but always with an eye on cost. It's important for our foodservice goals to be aligned with these priorities. In our system we lift each other up by identifying best practices and then working to that standard.That standard comes from innovation and creativity, not a template.

Foodservice is the keystone of patient satisfaction. It is the keeper of hospitality, creativity and comfort in a time of uncertainty. I hope you'll join me ... and keep striving for the best!