5 Cutting-edge functions of Mission Bay Hospital’s high-tech meal order system

Tablet-based system at this San Francisco hospital gives patients a high-tech, personalized meal service.

The newest facility within the University of California San Francisco Medical Center system has all the high-tech bells and whistles you might expect from a hospital in proximity to Silicon Valley, including robots (TUGs), an automated call center and a Wi-Fi linked phone system.

But the technology at University of California San Francisco Medical Center at Mission Bay that most excites Dan Henroid, director of food and nutrition services for the medical center, is a state-of-the-art, tablet-based meal ordering system. Each bed within the 287-bed hospital is equipped with a 10-inch tablet, attached to a swivel arm, that gives patients a convenient way to order meals whenever they want.

“If there is another hospital using a tablet-based system, I don’t know about it,” says Henroid, noting that other automated systems are either tied to TVs in the patient rooms or require the assistance of a foodservice employee to take a patient’s order.

Henroid says patients still have the option of placing their orders by bedside phone to a central call center, and in some cases foodservice employees are needed to take a patient’s order. But on average, he says, about 50 percent of Mission Bay patients use the system.

Here are five cutting-edge features of the ordering  system:

1. The user interface is designed to be intuitive.

Linked to the admission department, the system “knows” what patient is in each bed and provides the appropriate menu for that person.

2. It’s multilingual.

The system provides menus and instructions in five languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian.

3. It keeps patients honest.

Not only does the program match patients’ menus to their appropriate diet orders, it also includes prompts to alert patients when they have selected an item that is not approved for their diets. “It allows the patients to make the changes so that they remain in control,” Henroid says.

4. Patients have the option of advance ordering.

Patients can order meals to be delivered right away, or schedule the delivery of one or two meals in advance of service. For example, a patient can order breakfast and lunch at 7 a.m. and have the meals delivered to their room later in the day at a time that fits best with their schedules.

5. Patients can order meals for visitors.

In May, the system will be equipped with the ability to accept credit card payments; until then, guest meals are billed to the patients’ rooms. “It’s a personalized experience,” Henroid says. “Not only can I order what I want, I can order it for when I want it.”

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