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"I jumped on board with IDDSI because I’ve always believed it would reduce errors in the food served to people."

John Holahan

Image by João Silas
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  • Writer's pictureJohn Holahan

To: Healthcare Professionals

I’ve spent more than 20 years educating healthcare professionals about the benefits of a liquid gel thickener. We have sold hundreds of millions of servings of our product. And health care, in general, continues to move toward evidence-based practices.

So, when we get an email like this one from last month, I am really saddened:

Hi - I thought you should be aware that a Speech Therapist told me on Tuesday October 5th that your product was dangerous if used in coffee and in fact said:

“You could choke”.

I was puzzled because I’ve had over 350 cups of coffee since I re-started drinking it after a layoff. I reside at XXXX in XXX NJ. It is a subacute nursing/rehab/long term care facility. There are more than seventy locations in the northeast, so this has potentially serious consequences!

The Therapist attempted to steer me towards an instant coffee powder, from a different manufacturer, using the guise that it was safer.

Thanks, Kevin K.

Clearly, there is an agenda here: The facility is switching to a new thickener. That’s fine. That’s business. I don’t know the other product, so I cannot debate the merits of the two products here. But I encourage all healthcare professionals to be professional and tell the truth about the products they use. Don’t tell lies and fabricate excuses.

You can see that the writer of the email doesn’t believe the therapist.

Before telling a “story” rather than the truth, please ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Is telling this one story worth my entire credibility with your residents?

  • Why not simply tell them the truth? Won’t that serve both of us better in the long run?

  • Will your reputation ever recover?

  • How do you think the resident is going to react to your therapy suggestions in the future?

One lesson I’ve learned in the last 20 years starting and growing SimplyThick, is that it is always better in the long run to tell someone a slightly uncomfortable truth. It may feel easier to lie in the moment, but all too often, those little stories can become bigger problems with many more difficult conversations. And trust is something that is tough to gain, but very easy and quick to lose.

By the way, we thicken coffee just fine. Coffee is a standard demonstration with our product. In fact, we usually have a carafe of thickened coffee at our booth at various industry shows (feel free to stop by and try it if you see our booth). I even use a little SimplyThick gel several times a week to improve the froth when I use almond milk in my homemade lattes. And I recently made a video demonstrating a thickened pumpkin spice latte.

In the end, with an email like this, I take a deep breath, let it out and thank the customer for letting us know. And, of course, re-affirm that our product is used in coffee every day without any concerns. But I always wonder how much damage has happened to the relationship between the therapist and the patient.



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