The John Abrams South Mountain Company blog has a good account of a stay at Mass General Hospital:
we were in the very best place we could be – Mass General, one of the great Harvard teaching hospitals, a place where they do these surgeries every single day....
The technology – ever-changing – is futuristic. The food – ever not – is 1956. The bread is still white, the vegetables still canned, the meat still stringy, and the mashed potatoes still runny. The menu description for Grilled Cheese Sandwich says, "A simple grilled sandwich made with American cheese on old fashioned white bread."
The waste is colossal. Just as an example, the exam gloves that everyone wears are in dispensers hanging on the wall in every room. The dispensers are stacks of Kimberley Clark cardboard boxes on their sides with the middle torn out – just like the standard issue old Kleenex boxes used to be (maybe they still are – I don't know). The gloves are just stuffed in there and at least half a dozen times I've seen a nurse or doctor or orderly pull out a pair and another pair or two will come out too and fall to the floor. Guess what happens to them next. Are you telling me they can't figure out how to make a dispenser that lets them go a pair at a time? Often whomever is going for the gloves goes, "These dispensers are so ridiculous." But they have other things on their mind. Anybody out there have a good simple design solution?
Then there's the food and flowers waste. If somebody figured out a system for collecting and composting all this, they could fertilize half of New England. Or grow food on the acres of roof right here.
Re "Are you telling me they can't figure out how to make a dispenser that lets them go a pair at a time?" — they can figure it out, but they don't want to, because the more gloves the hospital goes through, the more money Kimberly Clark makes. It's not a technology problem, it's an incentive problem. If the hospital were paying Kimberly Clark a lump sum annually based on expected glove usage, with Kimberly Clark bearing the risk of the hospital over-using the gloves and the reward of the hospital using the gloves sparingly, that dispenser would be improved in no time.
Someone is going to make some money by setting up a tripadvisor/zagat style Web site where people can post accounts like this one about hospital and rehabilitation facility stays the way they do about hotels at tripadvisor. I just bought the domain name patienthospitalreviews.com. The objection will be that a lot of people wind up at hospitals not at their own discretion but because some ambulance or doctor or insurance company sends them there, and that the sort of things patients write about in these reviews, like the food, ultimately matter a lot less than harder to observe factors such as the quality of a brain surgeon when it comes to selecting a hospital.