With five facilities already rolling out a room service meal delivery model, and a plan for 32 facilities to come on-board with a turnkey food service software system, food service managers “can’t believe the reduction on food waste coming back to the kitchen,” says Andrew Munn, PMP, and Health Information Technology Services Nova Scotia (HITS-NS) Project Manager for the broad-scale software implementation.
In 2009, officials at the Nova Scotia Department of Health extended coverage of the existing contract services with Vision Software Technologies, Inc. (Goodlettsville, Tennessee – U.S.) to increase usage of the application to the rest of the province, which aligned this project with the provincial vision of single system solutions. The extended contract was to implement all modules of the Web-based Vision System throughout the province within a two-year window. Explains Kelly Laughlin, Regional Support Coordinator for Vision Software (Waterloo, ON), “The Nova Scotia team has already implemented more software modules than any other client worldwide in such a short time.”
Room Service Offers Flexible Delivery: As part of a comprehensive nutrition service upgrade, several hospitals have already gone live with a room service system as well, explains Munn. Room service permits patients to order meals “on call” from a flexible menu, similar to a hotel, choosing their own timetables. Initially, he says, we had one hospital set up the system offline in order to define their processes, while another began using the Vision Software. Now, four of five providing room service are using Vision Software to track meal orders and integrate menus with food service systems for strong control of food production, inventory, and purchasing, and additional facilities are slated for deployment. Four more hospitals are planning to go live with room service, using Vision software, in the upcoming months, he adds.
While not yet used extensively in Canada, explains Laughlin, room service supports food quality by allowing fresh meals made to order. It supports food cost savings, as patients are choosing what they feel like eating−when they want it. It improves the patient experience, as food is a crucial component of the health care process. With room service, says Munn, “We’re hearing that patients are happier. Dietitians on the floors see a vast reduction in meal-related complaints. Phone lines are open all day long, so patients simply call when they’re ready for a meal. Staff like it because they see patients eating what they want, and kitchen staff are thrilled to be part of the satisfaction.”
The Web-based edge: A Web-based system with centralized administration has enabled rapid deployment for the hospital food service systems. The Vision system operates under the Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, meaning that applications and databases reside on a secure Internet server. The Nova Scotia system is hosted at the HITS-NS Data Centre in Halifax.
Web-based solutions pose minimal requirements for hardware on-site at each operation, as they operate on PCs with browsers, while the network resources are shared among all users at all facilities. This enables efficient implementation while providing economies of scale for network maintenance, software upgrades, and the like.
The Nova Scotia Department of Health has taken the model a step further, through the work of the HITS-NS team, whose mission is to enrich the circle of care through the secure delivery and support of provincial health care information systems and services, including electronic health records. A team of three application support specialists oversee the system for the entire province, explains Munn, who adds, “We have centralized service and support for all the provincial facilities with the HITS-NS team.”
The Vision Software application supports a number of resources, says Munn. “We tie into a centralized financial system and electronic medical record (EMR). We also provide and maintain provincial recipe and inventory files, as well as, standard menu templates,” he says.
Because some facilities have unique food ordering patterns and some local suppliers, each can make modifications to the files to customize for their own operational needs, he points out. This puts each manager in control, without each having to custom-build their databases and systems. It minimizes IT staffing needs as well. Says Munn, after full-scale implementation, a team of two IT specialists will be able to oversee the entire province’s food service software applications. SaaS technology, a growing trend in health care IT, is totally scalable and well recognized in the health care IT industry for rapid return on investment.
Interfaces share data: One of the secrets to achieving large-scale benefits from a food service IT system says Munn, is connectivity with other information systems. “In a very aggressive implementation plan, we rolled out a province-wide EMR interface for 32 hospitals right away,” he explains. “We also have interfaces for purchasing and financial management.” Each of these, says Munn, expand the power of the system, delivering real-time information and labour-saving shortcuts to managers throughout the province.
The next connectivity solution, already in progress, is a dietary interface that will drop each patient’s diet order and other diet-related data elements directly into the patient nutrition system, says Munn. This will enable features such as automated menu checking. An Admissions/Discharges/Transfers (ADT) feed from the electronic health record will enable nutrition staff to maintain up-to-the-minute patient location data, and use the software to verify that menu selections are placed for each patient under a patient-driven meal service model, says Munn.
Rapid deployment: Shared resources also contribute to rapid deployment, Munn feels. The implementation team, comprised of HITS-NS Application Specialists, District F&NS staff, and Vision Software support staff, go to each health care operation for the software launch, bringing in the expertise and experience to ensure a smooth and effective implementation. “We’ve been working together on this project for over a year now,” comments Munn, “and the Vision staff has shared extensive knowledge and ideas with us. Now, within less than nine months, we will have fully rolled out all regional facilities. The project is proving highly successful at each one.”
Integrated management tools: The fully integrated Vision Software modules address functional areas such as menu development and forecasting, inventory control, food purchasing, food cost reporting, hospital cafeteria operations, diet office and hospital patient menus, hospital room service and tray tracking, paperless menus, clinical nutritional care, food allergy checking, automated menu checking, food-drug interaction prevention, nutrition screening and assessment, and related tasks. For hospital clinical nutrition services, Vision Software also provides customized HL7 interfaces with real-time information to support patient nutritional care.
Munn explains the province selected Vision Software, with a presence in Canada for nearly three decades, based on the favourable experience of one of the province’s hospitals, the “very accommodating” support team and comprehensive cost/benefit analysis. The two-year implementation plan spearheaded by the team Munn leads, will deliver the full-range functionality of all Vision Software modules to the entire province, explains Munn. “Significant credit must be given to the F&NS Directors and their staff who have been unwavering in their support and drive to implement the system,” he adds. Goals of the project include extensive cost-savings for Nova Scotia’s Department of Health, efficiencies in operation, enhanced clinical nutritional care, and exceptional patient satisfaction through leading-edge meal services, explains Munn.