Considering a Move to Bedside Ordering?
There is no denying a room service approach can produce positive outcomes for directors looking to improve patient satisfaction and decrease costs. However, with increasing technological advances and continued pressures to further reduce operational costs, many operators are eliminating the call center in favor of a decentralized room service model, often referred to as Bedside Meal Order Entry.
Bedside Meal Order Entry is gaining popularity in acute healthcare operations, due in large part to the increased patient satisfaction gained from more face-time with patients. Additional benefits touted with a bedside meal selection approach include fewer FTE’s than a traditional room-service call center model, increased nursing interaction and satisfaction, and improved service to those patients that otherwise would have been deemed “room service ineligible”.
Previously, Bedside Meal Order Entry was considered a less efficient means of taking meal selections because employees were forced to use paper menus to record patient selections and then someone had to enter those selections into a software application in order for the meal to be prepared and delivered. This inefficiency often meant that patients needed to be visited for meal selections up to a day in advance. However, with recent advances in wireless technology and increased availability of hand-held computer tablets, employees can now enter meal selections directly into a software application at the bedside while also receiving real-time patient updates, maximizing efficiency and patient safety.
If you are considering the move to Bedside Meal Order Entry, consider these operational decisions:
- Delivery Time: How and when will meals be delivered to patients? With this approach there are many options. For example, you may continue with an on-demand room service delivery style, where meals are delivered roughly 45 minutes after the order is taken. Or, you may offer patients the option to choose a specific delivery time for their meal. Or, you may deliver meals at predetermined times, much like a traditional trayline environment. Consider the option (or hybrid of options!) that will work best for you operationally and allow you to best maximize patient satisfaction.
- Patient Visits: When will patients be visited for their meal selections? Ideally, you will want to obtain menu selections as close to meal service as possible, while still providing adequate time for the production kitchen to prepare and deliver the tray. Will you request one meal at a time, or multiple? Often, the breakfast meal, for example, is obtained the afternoon before.
- Tracking Order Status: Keep in mind that some patients will need to be revisited in order to obtain their selections. Patients are often away for tests, or visiting with physicians or guests, and a return visit may be required to get the meal selection. Having a way to track which patients have not ordered meals and keeping notes for those that need to be revisited will be an important consideration for any operation. Also, get to know the timing of physician rounds on each unit so that staffing can be adjusted accordingly to maximize patient visits. And remember, if a patient has visitors, offer guests an opportunity to order as well – this is a great patient satisfier and also generates additional revenue!
- Tray Delivery: Who will handle tray delivery? Will this be the same team member responsible for gathering the orders? If it is possible for one person to be responsible throughout the entire meal selection and delivery process, it can bolster team member accountability and foster the patient-care relationship.
- Real-Time Updates: In order to move the call center to a remote operation, it is critical that the Food and Nutrition team has access to real-time information at their fingertips so they can readily identify patient-specific preferences, allergies, room location transfers, and diet order changes. Having a wireless software application is key to providing this data and ensuring patient safety at all times.
- Other Departmental Requests: Resist the urge to eliminate the diet office altogether! Generally, the diet office still needs to be minimally staffed in order to accommodate inter-department calls and special requests.
With a solid plan and effective tools to aid your team, a transition to Bedside Meal Order Entry can help you connect with your patients to maximize satisfaction, while still keeping operational costs under control.
Article by: Heather Johnson, Hospitality Suite Product Manager; Fusion, 3rd Quarter, 2014