Technology & Equipment

What patients want: a better meal-ordering experience

Photograph: Shutterstock

As healthcare systems continue to focus on patient satisfaction, one of the ways they are working to improve the patient experience is by expediting and customizing the way they can order meals.

“Being able to order bedside is a fantastic way for patients to have a little more control over a process that is not the most kind to them, in terms of having to wake up in the middle of the night for various tests and measurements,” says Jeff Wood, vice president of marketing and product for CBORD, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based provider of nutrition, food production and other services for healthcare and other sectors. “[Ordering bedside] is a great opportunity to give patients what it is they want: the food they want, delivered when they want and with the nutrition that is appropriate for them based on their individual needs.”

CBORD’s Patient App does precisely that. It allows patients to order food either on their phones or through the hospital’s tablet devices. If the hospital opts for the former, the app can link to the patient’s electronic medical record so it can provide meals that are appropriate based on the patient’s specific needs.

“You have the opportunity to choose an entree or side and dessert or beverage that is compatible with your specific dietary or nutrition needs,” Wood says.

The app is addressing the outdated ordering system that many hospitals currently use. Such a system may require patients to order off a paper menu, sometimes up to a day in advance, with only vague estimates about when the food will be delivered.

“We think that’s a bit of an antiquated model, considering [the expectations] of consumers today,” Wood says. “They want it when they want it and how they ordered it. It allows for more flexibility for the patient.”

Food safety is also paramount. “We also have logic built into systems to understand what ingredients are going into food to make sure we are protecting patient safety, such as allergens that will cause a reaction,” he says. “Those things are important as well.”

Ordering independence

Marc Walters, food service director for El Centro Regional Medical Center, a hospital in El Centro, Calif., appreciates the app for providing both convenience and safety. His hospital has been using the app since June 2019.

“We really loved the independence it gives to the patient and family members of patients in placing their meal selections,” he says. “Because we’re able to link it to our database … we are able to control the options the patient has; it can comply with their diet.”

In addition, the app serves as an educational tool by tracking the patient’s nutritional intake and displaying their consumption of a particular restricted substance, such as sodium, in the corner of the screen. If the patient requests a food that exceeds their limit, the screen turns red and suggests the patient remove the item. This way, Walters says, patients can actively participate in their care.

The hospital incorporated the app to provide another channel for patients in their meal ordering. They can also use a call center or order through staff who come to the bedside with tablets.

“We just found that adding the third option would reduce the stress on my staff and make it a little more efficient getting meal selections for the patients,” Walters notes.

Reducing waste

Another benefit of the app is waste minimization, Wood points out. Because patients can order exactly what they want, hospitals do not have to throw away as much of the food that they typically provide through their standardized meal sets. During a one-day study, El Centro found that the number of house trays (default meals) plummeted with use of the app. Nearly all of the patients selected their meal. This translates into more consumption and less waste.

Better yet, there are new developments in the works. The app, which has been available for more than a year, soon will have more features, such as guest ordering and paying. Another coming attraction is the ability to track the order as it’s delivered to the patient.

“It’s all about control, right?” Wood says. “We give the opportunity to say, ‘This is the meal I want and this is what I want delivered.’ This gives a sense of control that you don’t get a lot of in a typical hospital stay.”

Predictive ordering isn’t far behind. CBORD is currently looking to incorporate AI technology that provides suggestions for what patients may want based on their profile, previous orders or any previous stays they’ve had at the hospital. One thing is for sure: Every new development makes the app even better equipped to serve patients, making each hospital stay a little more comfortable . For more information on the CBORD Patient App, visit CBORD.

This post is sponsored by CBORD

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