To improve patient-centered care, look to fast food industry

To address perception issues in the healthcare business, hospital leaders can take pointers from an unlikely source: the fast food industry, according to Tamara Rosin of Becker's Hospital Review.

For example, new McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, aware of the popular perception of the chain's food as unhealthy and low-quality, this week announced a new initiative to phase out chickens raised with antibiotics used in human medicine over the next two years and discontinue the use of milk from cows given the artificial growth hormone rbST by the end of 2015. Easterbrook's move, according to experts, may spark a trend in the industry of increased focus on quality, possibly leading to updated quality benchmarks.

These steps, according to Rosin, are a response to the notion of consumers as better-informed and more attentive to quality, a perspective that would benefit healthcare as well. The advantage of these strategies is that they address the actual issues consumers have with the product rather than dazzling them. Similarly, a recent study indicated that high-end, hotel-style amenities in hospitals have little effect on patient satisfaction. This, Rosin writes, is further evidence that hospital leaders' top priority should be improving care quality, and that the consumers they serve agree.

"Although hospitals probably do not want to begin serving McDonald's to their patients, the fast food company can serve as a reminder that improving quality--and making the big changes this requires--will always have the biggest impact on consumer satisfaction," Rosin writes.

Nor is fast food the only industry with lessons for healthcare. In recent years, Disney has increasingly emphasized personalization and transitioning to digital formats, both of which are important to healthcare as more efficient, patient-centered care becomes the way of the future. Similarly, part of the secret of Starbucks' success is its emphasis on catering to individual consumer preferences, whereas end-of-life care has long incentivized precisely the opposite approach, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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