Posted: March 15, 2019

When in hospital, it’s natural to crave some of the comforts of home. For some, this may include a favourite item of clothing or a photo, and for many this comfort involves food. At Grand River Hospital (GRH), we understand good food contributes to better healing. Through our Nutrition and Food Services (NFS) program, GRH serves about 1400 meals a day accommodating over 100 different diets for hundreds of patients at both our KW and Freeport Campuses. To better serve our patient’s growing needs, GRH is one of 19 Ontario hospitals participating in a provincial research study aiming to understand what food patients want when they’re in hospital and how hospitals can meet those needs.

The study is led by principal investigator, Dr. Lisa Duizer from the University of Guelph. Dr. Heather Keller is a Schlegel Research Chair in nutrition and aging, professor at the University of Waterloo, and the co-investigator on the study. She has worked with GRH’s office of research and innovation and clinical nutrition team on research studies in the past and is excited to have GRH come onboard as one of the participating hospitals in this research study. 

“This is the most in-depth study about food satisfaction study that’s ever been completed in Canada,” says Keller. “Most studies focus on a few key questions, usually to do with food taste and temperature but it stops there. These studies stop short of asking what the patients want.”

To determine these preferences, Duizer and Keller have created a tool – an in-depth questionnaire – that patients complete after receiving their meal that asks for feedback on different types of food, what food they like, what food they'd like to see on the menu and how much they consumed of their current meal. In addition to the questionnaire, hospitals are performing waste audits of different meals, examining what food comes back most often and if it corresponds to the results of the questionnaire.

Karen Gosine research study
Karen Gosine is a dietitian at Grand River Hospital and is overseeing the study at the hospital.

Karen Gosine is a dietitian at Grand River Hospital and is overseeing the study at the hospital. She says that food in hospitals is not often studied because it’s viewed simply as a service and not a part of patient care and patient healing.

“A lot of people don’t understand that food is a critical part of a patient’s recovery time in hospital,” says Gosine. “The value of what we do goes well beyond what we're serving on a tray. This study recognizes this importance and that’s why it’s so great for us to participate.”

A team of GRH’s post-graduate dietetic interns are helping Karen collect the 75 questionnaires and conduct 7-days worth of waste audit data for this study. They say the response from patients has been positive so far and patients have reported that they are generally enjoying the food they’re eating.

Food satisfaction research study team waste audit
Dietetic intern, Prabhjot Verraich, conducts a waste audit on a cart of lunch trays

“We currently complete yearly satisfaction surveys with our patients and are constantly monitoring and changing our menus based on patient feedback,” says Gosine. “When we asked 100 patients in 2017-18 about their overall meal experience at GRH 79% stated it was good or very good. This is a high satisfaction rate that we are proud of. We’re excited to see the results of this research study which will help validate some of the ideas about food satisfaction we already know and compare our data to other hospitals.”

“Food that tastes good helps patients heal,” says study lead Lisa Duizer. “When you’re recovering from a surgery or illness you want food that you want to eat. It will improve your intake, help you heal, and it will reduce the length of time you need to be in hospital. We want better food to be a driver to discharge patients.”

“This study has the potential to change the way we understand food and nutrition in our hospital and it gives patients the voice to advocate for what they want, which ultimately leads to better quality of care and patient satisfaction at GRH,” says Dr. Tina Mah, vice president of research and innovation at GRH. “Partnering with the University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph on this study – one of a growing number of studies at the hospital – demonstrates again, the value of working with our colleagues in the universities to create evidence-based care for our patients.”

“The University of Waterloo’s partnership with Grand River Hospital is a natural collaboration,” says Keller. “The hospital’s expertise and strength of clinical experience goes hand-in-hand with the university’s research expertise. We have a powerful and positive relationship.”

Food satisfaction research study team
Dietetic interns, Prabhjot and Jessica (left), pose with dietitian, Karen Gosine (right). This group is part of the team studying food satisfaction at Grand River Hospital.