The Geisinger system's reputation for efficiency has been earned over many years, and has long been associated with tracking and using data to drive its processes and decision-making. Foodservice here has long been a participant in the national benchmarking program managed by HFM, the Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management (now part of the Association for Healthcare Foodservice) and uses those numbers alongside hospital-wide Press Ganey score reports.
“Benchmarking is core to our culture,” says Bruce Thomas, associate vice president of guest services, “but benchmarking alone is not enough.
“The important thing is working to interpret what the numbers mean for your facility, and knowing how to use them to improve your performance,” he says. It also means educating a hospital administration over time about the subtleties and variations among benchmark results at different kinds of operations, he adds.
For example, “while it is typical for an administrator to look at food cost per patient day or labor cost per patient day as key metrics, we prefer to focus on net cost per patient day after taking retail revenue into account,” Thomas says.
“On a campus like ours, patient costs are not the driver. Food costs per patient day are high because the number of retail meals we serve is high. In that context, net cost per patient day is the core metric to look at regardless of the size of your hospital.”
Geisinger foodservice director Steve Cerullo offers another example of how context needs to accompany operational comparisons.
“In our case, floor stock numbers are a bit high relative to averages, but one reason for that is that our floor inventories also include supplies at several off site buildings, like surgery and outpatient centers, which need them for patients who are there for full days or nights even though they may not be admitted to the hospital.
Thomas emphasizes that such information should be presented to administrators not as an excuse, but as a basis for strategy to improve results.
“We use benchmark numbers and explanations like this in budget submissions, in selling business plans or in making recommendations for equipment purchases. Sometimes you have to present them and say — this is an area where we are not doing as well as we should. Here is why and here is how we want to address it.”