Upstate News

April 25, 2005
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

University Hospital takes patient diet planning high tech, with personal touch

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A new paperless menu system at University Hospital is helping plan meals for patients while providing patients with better service.

Using software created by the CBORD Group in Ithaca, University Hospital now plans diets and takes orders for more than 250 patients a day with the tap of a stylus.

According to CBORD officials, University Hospital is the first hospital in the country to have incorporated the room service software with the use of personal computer tablet.

Armed with computerized tablets, menu technicians visit patients twice a day to take menu selections. University Hospital’s wireless environment allows the information to be beamed immediately to where food service professionals receive the orders and prepare food for the upcoming meal.

When it comes to preparing 750 patient meals a day, with more than 650 menu selections available, coordination and ease of operation is the key to success. “It has made us much more efficient in so many ways,” said Brenda Keith Slack, Sodexho’s general manager and director of food and nutritional services at University Hospital. “It has streamlined our menu process and the patient tray assembly area.”

University Hospital contracts with Sodexho to provide food and nutritional services and the Sodexho Five Star menu was implemented as the base for the system.

The system has built in safeguards to automatically check whether patients’ menu selections are appropriate for their diet. If patients have dietary restrictions, the system blocks food choices from being ordered. When the diet restriction is lifted, the menu item becomes available.

The system also has enabled University Hospital to provide better service to patients. “There is never a lost menu or a menu that we cannot read,” Keith Slack said.

Prior to going high tech, University Hospital would place a menu for the next day’s meals on the patient’s food tray. Patients would be required to circle the menu item they desired. Sometimes menus were misplaced, or diet restrictions were unclear. Patients would often have to ask nurses for assistance in their menu selection.

Hospital Administrator Joyce Mackessy said the new technology has led to an increase in patient satisfaction scores.

“Ultimately, how patients feel about food quality and customer service can affect how satisfied they feel about their hospitalization,” she said. “This new technology, combined with the personal touch, does improve service and patient satisfaction.”

RJ Dollard, manager of customer support services for SUNY Upstate’s Information and Management Technology division, said implementing the new paperless menu system provided the hospital with several challenges. “From a technology perspective, this implementation is unique since we were the first CBORD customer to use wireless tablets with this software,” he said. “When we began to implement the system, secure wireless technology was evolving and the PC tablets were relatively new and unproven devices. The success of this technology has exceeded our expectations.”

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