ANFP is the nation’s leading organization of professionals involved in the management of nutrition and foodservice. At its highest level, ANFP strives to ensure that dining experiences in settings such as hospitals, long-term care centers and senior living facilities are nutritionally sound, safe, healthy and fulfilling. For some time, the association had received requests from its members for a benchmarking survey that could help them understand how their operations compared to similar organizations, as well as provide an insider’s perspective into some of the best practices in the industry.
“It can be very hard for our members to know what other facilities are doing, especially from a budget perspective,” says LeAnn Barlow, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Analytics. “Even when they have access to data from trusted sources, many times that information isn’t presented in a way that’s meaningful to their organization.”
Additionally, ANFP wanted to provide a means for members to continually add to its data repository for the food and nutrition industry. This repository would serve as a centralized resource where members could easily access national trends and standards as well as run analyses and reports based on geographic location, ownership, number of staff, and a number of other relevant filters.
“Part of our mission is to use the Certified Dietary Manager and Certified Food Protection Professional designation to position our members as experts in food service management and food safety for skilled nursing facilities,” adds ANFP President and CEO, Joyce Gilbert, PhD, RD, LDN. “An ongoing, quality benchmarking study supports this mission by providing customizable, on demand reporting that delivers actionable business knowledge to our members at the moment of need.”
With that in mind, ANFP convened an advisory group in October 2016 to begin work on a study targeted to its skilled nursing facilities members. Working closely with Dynamic Benchmarking, questions were formulated and tested. The Skilled Nursing Facility Benchmarking Program opened for data collection in March 2017 containing questions on facility demographics, personnel information, key financial statistics, foodservice operations, nutrition information, and food safety and sanitation practices. Additionally, Dynamic Benchmarking worked with ANFP to import data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid on the most common citations for food operations to supplement the information being provided by their members.
The study was initially launched to a small group of hand-picked facilities. This beta test brought to light some areas that needed improvement and provided the benchmarking advisory committee the information necessary to create a successful rollout to the association’s full membership.
“Our test group showed how vital it would be to educate our members on how to navigate the platform, collect and enter data, and even how to use the study’s final results,” continues Gilbert. “When we saw this, we immediately knew that we needed to take a step back and develop some tools to help make this study the valuable resource we knew it could be.”
Using both direct and indirect communications, ANFP quickly put into place a plan of action to help its members learn how to best use the new benchmarking platform. Upon reaching out to their project manager at Dynamic Benchmarking, it was decided that the first course of action would be to conduct a joint webinar with Dynamic Benchmarking. The webinar was structured into two sections. The first half showed ANFP members how to navigate the platform and create reports. The second half presented case studies that showed how members could use the platform to create reports they could use in meetings to present results to stakeholders. The webinar provided a good, high-level overview of how and why ANFP members should use the platform and, along with a soft rollout of the program at its annual conference, served to kickstart participation in the study.
Next, ANFP published a series of three articles in its member magazine, The Edge. The first article, “ANFP Skilled Nursing Facility Benchmarking Program”, was an industry summary report that utilized the study’s entire data set with no filters applied. A very broad article, it’s main purpose was to introduce the reader to what benchmarking and key performance indicators (KPIs) are and what they should be looking for as they examine the study results. This was followed by two, more specific articles on using the benchmarking data — one on staffing benchmarks that showed facility managers how they could look at facility-related KPIs across the industry, and one on foodservice operational benchmarks that showed how study data could be used to examine performance in a specific functional area. To further the education of ANFP members on the use of the benchmarking platform, the final article also introduced the concept of using data filters to help apply the information to their own facility's performance as well as the use of peer clustering for comparing the performance of individual facilities in multi-facility operations.
From here, ANFP went on to create ANFP TV, an online video portal found on the ANFP website. A new initiative, ANFP TV is designed to deliver engaging educational video content for the food and nutrition industry. ANFP plans to utilize data gleaned from this and other benchmarking studies to create content for ANFP TV and is confident that its members will find this new delivery format highly engaging.
Lastly, ANFP developed a research project incorporating KPIs into a best practices study. The Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals CDM Impact Program identifies the most common methods used by Certified Dietary Managers to manage and control budgets, staffing and operational parameters.
So has the communications program had an impact?
“Absolutely,” states Gilbert. “In the first year, the participation rate was about ten percent. Due to our educational efforts, our participation rate in year two is more than double that.”
Overall, the study is achieving its original objectives and even exceeding them. Members are now using the platform with ease, downloading national figures and running reports based on geographic location, ownership, number of staff, and more. They understand how to use KPIs and ultimately incorporate them into best practices and action steps in the long-term care of food systems management. And thanks to the efforts of ANFP to educate its members, they’re now reaping the additional benefits of increased member engagement and enrollment as well as stronger relationships with its partners and sponsors.
“The positive impact of this study has far surpassed our initial expectations,” concludes Gilbert. “We can’t wait to see what the next few years bring.”