Enhancing the Patient Dining Experience
In an effort to increase patients’ satisfaction with their meals, BWH Food Services is rolling out several improvement initiatives, including overhauled menus that promote health and wellness, faster delivery times and a more personalized approach to menu selection, preparation and distribution.
“Patients expect a dining experience that is parallel to the level of care they receive during their hospital stay,” said Peter Lamb, BWH Food Services director. “Our Food Services team is committed to making improvements and gathering feedback from patients to ensure we not only meet, but strive to exceed, their expectations.”
One of the biggest improvement initiatives focuses on the patient menu. The menu was redesigned last fall with the goal of providing information that encourages patients to make nutritious food choices that fit their diet restrictions. Fried foods and soda were removed from the menu, while nutritional content information, including kosher and gluten-free symbols, was added.
Food Services has also been working closely with the departments of Nursing and Nutrition and Wellness and the Center for Patients and Families to redesign the menu layout and bring back some favorite comfort foods that are now baked instead of fried, including chicken tenders and French fries. The team will also add flavorful, healthy rotating specials and entrees.
When renovations to BWH’s Cafeteria are complete early next year, food production for the Cafeteria and patients will occur in one kitchen, enabling Food Services to offer some items from the Cafeteria menu to patients as well. Currently, food production for the Cafeteria and patients takes place in separate kitchens.
A few months ago, Food Services staff participated in a two-day Lean Kaizen event, which focuses on continuous improvement and eliminating waste. They brainstormed ideas about how to reduce the time it takes to cook, prepare and deliver patient meals. Small changes to workflows and equipment layout, for example, have resulted in reduced tray delivery times.
As Food Services staff make changes, they are committed to listening to feedback from patients. The department has been conducting an average of 300 meal rounds per week at BWH. Staff visit patients in their rooms to hear about the quality of meals directly from patients. They also speak with nurses to gain feedback about meals and delivery.
“Initial feedback from our patients has been positive and helpful,” said Lamb. “We’re collecting the information from our rounds with patients and reviewing it to see which areas need more attention.”
Another exciting improvement initiative began when Partners eCare (PeC) launched on May 30: a diet order interface was built between Epic and HealthTouch, BWH’s meal order software. With the interface, HealthTouch acts as a listener to Epic, meaning that diet orders, allergies and supplements prescribed by doctors in Epic are automatically transferred into HealthTouch. In addition, foods containing ingredients a patient shouldn’t consume are automatically eliminated from the available menu options in HealthTouch. Before the interface, Food Services staff would have to pick up diet order sheets from every pod and floor throughout the hospital each morning and then enter the orders manually in HealthTouch, which took about two hours.
The new software has resulted in shorter wait times for meals and improved patient safety. The call center can now take future meal orders for patients, up to a week in advance, which saves time for patients, nurses and call center staff.
Since the new interface went online, the call center’s 25 operators, who assist patients with meal orders, have had the bandwidth to answer calls more frequently, resulting in fewer hang-up calls. Patrick Hubbard, operations manager for Patient Dining Services, says the number of hang-up calls for meal orders dropped from approximately 1,100 in April to 300 in June.
Food Services manager Roxanne Noseworthy said she and her colleagues are thrilled with the efficiency of the new interface: “I was emotional and excited when Epic went live and I saw the first diet order come through the new interface. We’ve waited more than 16 years for this, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m glad this interface has already started to benefit patients. It’s a win-win for Food Services and the entire hospital.”
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