A great number of healthcare facilities agree that serving higher quality hospital food improves a patient’s wellbeing and reduces repeat hospital visits. However, implementing healthy food initiatives puts added financial burdens on an already strained system. The NHS in England was recently awarded a 3.4% increase in funding, but industry insiders expect that the organisation will use most of the money to pay its current debts.
How does a publicly funded health system roll out cost-effective food service programmes that offer consistently fresh, nutritious foods that are customised to meet the wellness needs of every patient? Hospital management look to technologies for the answers.
Hospital food service software tools help medical facilities with all aspects of food service management, including:
- Nutritional screening and assessment
- Food allergy testing
- Food-drug interaction prevention
- Hospital room tray tracking
- Ingredient and nutrient labelling
The following are just a few ways that hospital management expect to use these software tools to improve patient satisfaction, gain better health outcomes, and increase sustainability for hospital food service.
Food Service Impacts Hospital Operations and the Patient Experience
Until recently, healthcare food service management was far less complicated; hospital staff members served a basic menu of inexpensive and often unappetising food to patients and their families. It was believed that food was the last thing on the minds of most hospital visitors. In the last few years, the link between good nutrition and long-term wellness has been re-established, and medical facilities around the world are rethinking food choices and food preparation options.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2016 351 people died in NHS hospitals in England and Wales due to malnutrition. Caroline Abrahams, a director at Age UK, said that one-third of all elderly people who are admitted to hospitals are malnourished. Industry experts believe that a more streamlined food supply chain could reduce nutrition-related illnesses and deaths. Today’s hospital management are trying to raise food service standards, improve the patient experience, and boost facility operations.
Food Supply Chain for Hospitals
Hospitals are not deprived of choices when it comes to food variety. Many vendors and distributors make up the hospital food service supply chain for NHS medical facilities. Group purchasing organisations (GPOs) help to negotiate food service contracts between suppliers and hospitals and save healthcare providers money by aggregating their collective purchasing power.
After hospitals decide on the right products for specific situations, their chosen vendors apply “economy of scale” discounts to their purchase orders. Many GPO representatives champion the use of integrated technology such as healthcare food service software to conduct data analysis, research, and benchmarking about hospital food service.
Food as Medicine for Patients
It is well known that an adequate supply of fresh, nutritious food is a basic human necessity. Whether a teenager is admitted to a hospital to address a severe sports injury, or an older adult seeks a doctor’s help for a serious heart problem, food is a critical part of the healing process.
Hospitals are committed to providing their patients customised healthcare services, which include diverse food offerings. Ideally, each hospital meal goes beyond general nutrition and enhances medical treatments for specific ailments. If a patient has a history of food sensitivities, hospital food service software tools should be flexible enough to accommodate the required changes to their meal selections.
Having more control over their meal options boosts the morale of many hospital patients. A patient who has had success with a plant-based diet is likely to want to continue eating in this way, even during a hospital stay. Giving patients extra options, such as delicious made-to-order meals and healthy grab-and-go snacks, makes them more likely to give their hospital high marks for patient satisfaction.
Food is a powerful ally in a hospital’s wellness toolkit, and innovative technology, such as hospital food service software, helps healthcare providers to make the most of their available resources.
What is Food Service Software for Hospitals?
Hospitals are challenged to continuously improve their services while staying within budgetary limits, meeting legislative demands, and keeping up to date with the dietary needs of a diverse population. So, healthcare providers use food service software systems to improve performance, save costs, and raise patient satisfaction in all types of healthcare settings.
Healthcare food service software automates healthcare food service management functions and yields the best outcomes for both patients and hospital operations.
How Healthcare Food Service Software Systems Work
Healthcare providers have many choices when it comes to food service software systems. Some food service software systems are web based and need very little time and financial investment to get started. Software providers host these systems on their equipment and hospitals benefit from automatic, system-wide updates. Other hospital food service software companies make their software available via licences. For many of these systems, healthcare providers must host the food service tools on their own servers and rely on in-house technical support for system maintenance.
Depending on the chosen hospital food service software tool, healthcare facilities can make changes to the system for a more customised solution.
Most healthcare food service software systems aim to automate the main features of healthcare food service management, such as nutrition care management and food service operations management.
- Common software modules for nutritional care management include nutrition assessment, automated menu planning, room service, and tray tracking.
- Food service operations management elements include stock management, web recipes and menus, and nutrition labelling.
- Other food service systems integrate point-of-sale tools to accommodate hospital cafeteria and grab-and-go food kiosk purchases.
Why Are Healthcare Food Service Software Systems Useful?
There are various benefits healthcare facilities could obtain through the use healthcare foodservice solutions. We highlighted the most substantial among them:
Improved supply chain through self-distribution
Healthcare food service software systems offer a “birds-eye view” of inventory, supply orders, and payments for each hospital. Hospital management can use this transparency to detect inefficiencies in their food service operations. They are also more likely to see opportunities to optimise supply chain features and quickly make changes.
Better health outcomes
Patients know all too well the true cost of frozen ready-made meals that are served to save time and money. Many of those dishes contribute to obesity, heart problems, and a host of other ailments. Most healthcare food service software systems include nutritional assessment and planning features that help healthcare providers to create custom meals that support a healthier patient, in turn promoting speedier recovery times.
Healthcare facilities get greater sustainability due to better inventory control with the use of hospital food service software systems. Food waste is a big problem for the UK, as, according to recent NHS statistics, hospitals threw away about £22 million worth of food in the past year. It’s likely that hospitals will throw away less food when patients are able to choose meals that are tailored to their needs.
Food service software systems also highlight off-peak meal service periods when staff are underutilised and food volume is low. If the healthcare facility’s food is good and reasonably priced, the hospital could become the go-to destination for after-church crowds, office workers, and busy families.
Better patient experience
While the UK has its own unique challenges when it comes to hospital food service, the status of hospital food remains the same in many countries. Food service software systems give hospitals the tools that they need to upgrade the status of institutional hospital food.
Management can use the technology to smartly source fresh produce from local suppliers in the right quantities. The availability of tastier food that is made-to-order dramatically improves the patient experience.
Healthcare providers use food service software to collect data points about food consumption to help them forecast future needs. These insights bring better focus to GPO contract requirements and offer institutions a stronger position when negotiating with suppliers.
Thus, the versatility of this solution allows hospital operations to run smoothly, even at a large scale. At the same time, patient gratification is constantly rising.
Crucial Elements to Consider in Hospital Food Service Software
Hospitals have many variables to consider when choosing a hospital food service software system. Management must pick food service tools that fit their organisations’ legislative and jurisdictional regulations, as well as GPO contract terms. At a minimum, their chosen food service software will incorporate automated supply chain oversight, nutritional care, performance reporting, and data privacy protections.
- Healthcare Food Service Management
Healthcare providers and GPO contract specialists use integrated food service software to buy food, coordinate food delivery, and return damaged goods. Besides facilitating smoother supply chain operations, these digital tools can also save lives. The UK’s Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently ordered a review of hospital food after a spate of Listeria related deaths were linked by health officials to pre-packaged sandwiches and salads. With food service management software in place, hospital officials can quickly detect and remove tainted supplies when food distributors send recall notices. It also saves operational costs connected to logistic services.
- Inventory Management
Hospital food service software helps food managers to optimise food service budgets and offer fresher fare. Healthcare providers are no longer limited to frozen, TV dinner-style meals that food service workers reheat and serve to patients on bed-side trays.
The software allows food managers to place “just-in-time” orders of local produce, which results in reductions in food waste, cost savings, improvements in patient outcomes, and greater overall customer satisfaction.
- Diet and Nutritional Menu Composition
After assessing a patient’s nutritional needs, healthcare providers must have a way to generate custom meals and menus that meet each patient’s nutritional profile. Healthcare facilities select hospital nutrition software systems that include automated dietary menu composition. This feature enables hospital staff members to generate various dishes and display the nutritional values of each meal. Staff members help patients to select meals that offer them the most nutrition and meet their taste preferences.
The software accommodates allergen labelling requirements, and staff members can modify many of these tools to drop certain menu items from a patient’s available meal choices, as needed. Patients who are afflicted by ailments such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease benefit from menus that show pictures of food items. The right hospital food service software systems allow food service managers to incorporate graphics into menus. These measures contribute to higher levels of control over a patients’ condition.
- Monitor Patient Satisfaction
Providing a good patient experience is a key goal of NHS healthcare facilities, and food quality plays a big role in that. Integrating food service software systems into daily patient care allows staff members to collect data from patients in real time. Digital surveys convey patient sentiments about food taste, meal temperature, and menu variety to staff members, who then use this information to quickly make improvements to offerings.
- Performance Tracking and Reporting
Funding for a hospital is often linked to its performance. Facili ties are sometimes incentivised to help the NHS to meet its healthcare goals. Hospital food service software systems help management to set up baselines, generate objectives, and track performance. Additionally, system capabilities allow for the analysis of menus to reduce the risk of malnutrition. Hospital officials can also assess the usefulness of their food service software tools and make changes to optimise system performance on demand.
- Data Ownership and Autonomy
Most hospital nutrition software tools are designed to meet the government’s data privacy requirements. However, some of them don’t give healthcare providers complete ownership of data. In these cases, healthcare providers store collected data items on the software companies’ systems and access patient information as needed. Hospitals must decide if this is acceptable, considering legislative requirements. When healthcare providers allow contract management companies to use their own food service software solutions, they lose a degree of autonomy. Collected data is also at risk if the hospital decides to switch contract management companies.
Proper nutrition is the foundation of patient well-being, especially in terms of health recovery. Hospitals are obliged to provide tailor-made nutrition plans alongside with qualitative and fresh food.
Since hospitals have a tangled net of communications with vendors and other healthcare providers, their food supply chain remains complicated. At this pace, hospital management cannot provide decent level of service and keep track of all inventory. To facilitate the management process and raise patient satisfaction, healthcare facilities can apply hospital food service software to everyday life. The system could be filled with custom features to cover all aspects of a patient’s health nutrition, including dietary preferences, as well as reduce food waste.
Hospital food service software systems are powerful tools that can help medical facilities honour their current obligations to patients and meet future challenges, while realising long-term healthcare cost savings.