The elderly woman—evidently a visitor, not a patient—sat in her wheelchair in the Call Center at Medical City Hospital Dallas. When asked if she needed help, she simply beamed and said, “No,” explaining that she’d just stopped by to visit “her girls” who’d made her recent stay so pleasant…

“That’s what it’s all about,” says FSD Mary Ann Moser.

Blessed is the weary traveler whose hotel offers Room Service. The restaurant-style menu in the room—right next to the phone or across from the TV—allows for easy ordering either by speaking to the operator or by entering “data” into a TV-based order-entry system.

Based on this hotel model, patients in a growing number of hospitals across the country can similarly place an order from their room by selecting items from a restaurant-style menu, typically delivered within 45 minutes of ordering, any time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. They’re ordering what they want (within diet restrictions), how they want it, when they want it. That, plain and simple, is the classic, standard definition of hospital Room Service.

Today, 38% of hospitals reportedly already have a room service program, with another 43% of facilities saying they’re in the planning stages. That's according to Don Miller, founder of DM&A Webb Food Service Design & Consulting, Tustin, CA—and passionate proponent of classic, standard hospital Room Service. Increased patient satisfaction scores and decreased departmental costs are the prize to be won.

As overall healthcare cost pressures continue to mount, administrators are motivated to find a better way to reduce food and labor costs, and leverage the documented patient satisfaction scores that have been shown to improve when Room Service is in place—and operating efficiently (a caveat that can’t be ignored).

Miller and his staff of more than 40 consultants (many of them retired healthcare FSDs) make the argument to those seeking their advice in implementing Room Service that there are really only two key models for its implementation in acute care environments:

  • the Call Center model and;
  • the No Call Center Mode

“The challenge is that some folks want to put in Room Service, but are unable to do so for various reasons, and then sometimes fudge a little," Miller asserts. He argues they will often refer to other strategies "such as the spoken menu process (where orders are taken at bedside but meals are delivered at specified time periods, e.g., 7a.m., 12p.m., and 5p.m.) as ‘modified Room Service,’ or ‘hybrid Room Service,’ or ‘whatever Room Service.’"

In Miller's view, such monikers muddy the waters since "that is not Room Service at all; it’s misinformation and leads to confusion in the industry.”