Better food service through software program

By Lauren MacDougall

Food is a medicine and healthy food choices are a key ingredient in caring for patients. Now, information technology staff and food and nutrition leaders have created a software program that helps ensure patients get the food they need and want.

Since 2010, food service leaders within the Nova Scotia health care system have worked together to implement a provincial software program to support food management and delivery. This technology supports Food and Nutrition Service Departments to manage inventory, recipes, menu options, food production, diet codes and allergy lists. At this time, 18 health care facilities use this technology across the province.  

"With a computerized program now in place, food services is directly connected to our computerized patient management system,” said Sue Ellen McCarron, manager of Nutrition and Food Services atSt. Martha’s Regional Hospital, Antigonish. “One thing that our staff really appreciates is that patient food allergies now flow directly into our food services program. This reduces manual processes, provides better management of food allergies and increases patient safety."

Enhanced patient experience

The software solution supports the delivery of patient-centred care by providing patients with a wide variety of healthy food choices that can be ordered either through bedside dial-for-dining (Room Service Module), spoken menus or layered menus (where patients can select menu options). The software also has the capability to provide a standard menu rotation that automatically creates meals based on patient preferences and dietary requirements for those patients who do not wish to order.

Patients are more inclined to eat what they’ve ordered, helping to ensure that they receive the nourishment needed to positively affect their health and recovery. Food and nutrition staff make every effort to source seasonal, local food and in-house production often includes homemade food items made from scratch.

Enhanced patient safety

Many patients have specific therapeutic nutritional requirements, including life threatening food allergies. The food and nutrition software is connected to hospital information systems, which contain diet order entry modules. This integration allows patient information to flow in real time and flag anything that isn’t appropriate based on patient dietary requirements. The software may also automatically choose new items based on patient preferences.

Enhanced resource management

The software supports food and nutrition service operations, from purchasing food to delivering nourishment and meals to the patient’s bedside. It integrates business and health information systems to support decision making.

Reduced environmental impact

Within the province, the software provides tallies of foods produced that allows for better forecasting for food production, leading to improved efficiency and less waste. In the past, almost 50 per cent of patient food would be returned and end up in the garbage. Since the start of dial-for-dining, food waste has decreased by at least 50 per cent, and food cost has been cut through use of an enhanced inventory system.