How to Improve Dietary Standards within Hospitals
Written by Jay Fremont
Is Your Hospital Properly Feeding Patients?
While hospital fare is unlikely get a thumbs-up from Zagat's reviewers any time soon, the food that hospitals are providing for patients in the United States shows significant signs of improvement, both nutritionally and in its overall appeal to diners. Much, however, remains to be done.
Some of America's hospitals continue to serve patients an unappealing diet that includes meat of questionable origin and rubbery gelatin desserts in colors not previously known to man.
Making matters worse, many hospitals have fast-food outlets operating in cooperation with their cafeterias or as stand-alone outlets off the hospital lobbies.
At the very least, such fast-food shops set a poor example and, in practice, provide the source for unhealthy food smuggled to patients by otherwise well-meaning family members and friends.
Initiatives for Better Food
A good deal of the credit for recent positive changes must go to national, state, and local initiatives that have as their goal the establishment of standards to improve the image of hospital food. Although there's little likelihood of anyone mistaking it for cordon bleu fare, most hospital food is not what it once was, and that's a good thing.
One of the most ambitious campaigns at the national level was launched in the fall of 2012 by the Washington-based Partnership for a Healthier America.
The organization, originally founded to combat the growing problem of childhood obesity, partnered with hospital food providers and hospitals to provide more healthy food options in their institutions.
Better Nutrition, Less Fast Food
Called the Hospital Healthy Food Initiative, the PHA-sponsored program aims not only to improve the nutrition of meals fed to patients but also the food offered in the hospitals' cafeterias.
Some of the country's biggest hospitals and hospital chains, as well as hospital caterers, were among the first companies to join PHA's campaign. Current partners include Centura Health, Children's Hospital of Chicago, Henry Ford Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Maine Health, Morrison Healthcare Food Services, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Colorado Health, and University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics.
If your local hospital is not yet part of this PHA initiative, you might consider a grassroots letter writing campaign asking hospital officials to join the Hospital Healthy Food Initiative.
PHA Campaign's Recommendations
In its report on the goals and early success of the PHA campaign, USA Today took a closer look at some of the specific recommendations embodied in the Hospital Healthy Food Initiative.
Partners in the PHA program are asked to:
* Increase the amount and variety of fruit and vegetables on their patient menus and in their cafeterias;
*Replace all salty and sugary foods displayed near cafeteria cash registers with healthy food options;
*Remove all deep-fried foods from patient and cafeteria offerings;
*Offer healthier beverages, such as water, unflavored low-fat and fat-free milk, 100 percent natural fruit and vegetable juices, tea, and coffee;
*Add to patient menus and cafeteria offerings a low-calorie healthy meal and a healthy children's meal as regular daily selections. These meals must be priced the same or less than comparable cafeteria selections.
Michigan Takes Action
Among the successful state programs to improve the quality and nutrition of hospital food is Michigan's Health Food Hospitals initiative, launched in 2010. The framework of the program is a list of four goals that member hospitals must meet.
The first three goals, each with a deadline in early 2013, call for hospitals to serve pediatric patients between the ages of 2 and 18 menus that meet the American Heart Association standards; transition to healthy beverages; and label nutritional content in cafeteria offerings.
The final goal, set for Jan. 1, 2020, calls upon hospitals to source at least 20 percent of their food from Michigan-based growers, processors, and producers.
On the local level, New York City in September 2012 announced a renewed push to rid city hospitals of unhealthy food, particularly the sugary and salty snacks and menu selections in cafeterias and vending machines.
New York's 15 public hospitals had previously taken steps to cut calories and improve the overall nutritional value of meals served to patients. But the new campaign targets other food sources in hospitals, namely cafeterias and vending machines.
While the city's public hospitals must comply with fast-food restrictions imposed by the new measures, several private institutions in the city have recognized the value of the program. Fifteen private hospitals had joined the campaign as of late September 2012.
So, is your hospital feeding patients what they really need and want?
About the Author
Jay Fremont is a freelance author who has written extensively about personal finance, corporate strategy, social media, and Charles E. Phillips.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.