Wednesday, August 4, 2010

5 Ways to Make Hospitals Better

I’m happy to present this guest post by Ben Gerber, the author of Minimalist Muscle, a blog about muscle development and minimalism (two important parts of a yoga practice). Ben is a minimalist, lifter, blogger, and the husband of one of my best friends. He is now also a cancer survivor. You can learn more about his life and ideas on his blog.

Five Ways to Make Patients Healthier and Happier at the Hospital

Until recently, I'd been fortunate enough to have never stayed in a hospital overnight as a patient. My lucky streak ended this month with a week-long stay. While I was very happy with the treatment I received in this specific hospital, I came away from the experience with a lot of thoughts on how hospital stays could be a much healthier and happier experience. Here are the first five that came to mind.
  1. Increase the number of healthy food options available. After not eating for nearly a week, I was excited to receive the hospital menu for my first meal. I had no delusions that hospital food was going to be fine cuisine, but I was shocked at the amount of junk food on the menu. Suffice it to say, the healthiest thing on the menu that day was apple sauce and cream of wheat (both of which I ordered). How hard would it be to add a banana or apple to the menu?
  2. Reduce the sodium content of all foods. I like salty food as much as the next guy (I have a weakness for Kettle Chips), but much of what I was served was so salty that it was almost inedible. Any dish that sounded potentially healthy ended up having what I suspect to be an entire day's worth of sodium.
  3. Disclose the nutritional value of all foods. It amazes me that fast food and chain restaurants are required to state the nutritional content of their food items, but hospitals are not. After all, you don't go to McDonald's expecting to be healthier after you leave, but you certainly expect hospitals to do everything they can to make you healthier during your stay. If the point of nutritional disclosure regulation is to avoid misleading consumers, the better target is hospitals.
  4. Have a designated walking loop. According to my doctor, getting on my feet and walking was one of the best things I could do to recover from my surgery. The problem was that there wasn't any safe place to walk, particularly considering my frail state. The hospital hallways were always bustling, and I was almost plowed over several times.
  5. Reduce the amount of junk in hospital rooms. Hospital rooms are tiny and difficult to navigate. I recognize that space is a matter of economics, but the existing area could be utilized much more efficiently. For example, I did not need the massive bedside table. Nor did I need the large rolling food table during the majority of my stay, since I couldn't eat (this coincided with the time in which it was most painful to move around, making the food table particularly difficult to navigate around).


  1. Ben, terrific comments! I strongly agree with all your recommendations. It is outrageous and painfully ironic that hospitals serve unhealthy food. This is like serving alcohol at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

  2. Great points by guest blogger Ben!

    Isn't it ironic that health reform will mean more information about food at chain restaurants -- but not about hospital food? Hospital and school food would both be good places to start to improving the nutrition of the food that we eat.

  3. This is a great post! I worked in a hosptial-based research lab for the past year. I was begging for some decent greens and a walking loop the whole time! I have heard of some hospitals that have tracks in their basement or lower levels to promote staff health. I really think all hospitals should do this immediately!

  4. what brings people to the hospital...


  5. Wow Adam, fried butter?!! That's scary (but ugh, it does sound kind of good!)

  6. Hey Landanimal - a walking loop/track in the basement is a great idea! This has got to be the direction hospitals start moving.