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Examine and centralize your purchased services

According to the American Hospital Association*, purchased services spend has eclipsed 50% of non-labor costs for many organizations.

Unfortunately, purchased services are a broad category that’s difficult to standardize. Whether it’s IT or facility management, when any purchased services you employ aren’t fully examined, you lose opportunities to:

  • Gain actionable insights
  • Reduce costly redundancies
  • Align teams and save valuable time and effort
  • Increase efficiency across multiple locations
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Food Service Management In Hospitals

Food service management in hospitals often represents an enormous challenge. The typical hospital can serve thousands of people. Not every patient needs to stay in the hospital overnight. However, those receiving in-patient treatments need reliable meals that match their nutritional profiles.

The definition of “food service management” can also differ from hospital to hospital, adding another layer of complication. While a small hospital might need to manage a staff of three people serving a few dozen patients, a large hospital might manage a hundred employees responsible for:

  • Ordering ingredients
  • Preparing meals
  • Staying within budgets
  • Following individual nutrition guides
  • Delivering food to patients

You might also find that your institution has additional requirements for healthcare food service management employees.

Perhaps your hospital is locked into a contract with a specific vendor. If that’s the case, you can’t explore alternatives to lower food costs or increase quality. What can you possibly do to improve food services for the hospital and its patients?

Maybe your hospital has committed to using sustainable packaging solutions. In that case, you can only consider using suppliers that help you meet those goals.

The good news is that food service management software can help. Regardless of what challenges you face, you can adopt a digital tool designed to help your hospital kitchen succeed.

Does your current software position your hospital kitchen for success? You could find a better option by trying Valify. Valify has features for:

  • Benchmarking
  • Creating purchase portfolios
  • Accelerating sourcing
  • Finding opportunities for sustainable savings
  • Analyzing data to give you immediate insights into your budget

The Role of Software in Hospital Food Services

A software solution like Valify has several features that can help you take control of food service expenses and quality. Food service management matters in several industries, but it’s arguably most important in healthcare. Within a healthcare context, patients might need meals that meet highly specific nutritional and caloric goals. Healthcare facilities also need to take great care in controlling costs. The lower they can keep food costs without sacrificing quality, the more affordable they become for patients and insurance providers.

Given the broad range of factors that can influence costs and quality, investing in healthcare food service management software is essential to success.

Types of Food Service in Hospitals

The types of food service in hospitals often build on the options you would find in a restaurant. Hospitals need to consider the highly specific nutritional needs of diverse patients. Professional food service management helps ensure they can prepare meals for people with conditions like compromised immune systems and cardiovascular disease.

Food service management should also time preparation and delivery to control bacteria like salmonella. When allowed to enter the temperature “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can grow rapidly in food. When handled properly, hospital food services can deliver food to patients before it enters this range.

Some healthcare facilities might also need to address more general types of good service management. For example, the hospital might have a cafeteria that serves employees and visitors. These cafeterias should still serve nutritious, healthy food. However, they don’t always need to meet the unique requirements of patients receiving planned care.

Since hospitals need to address so many types of food service, they often divide options into four groups:

  • Tray line service
  • Pod service
  • Satellite service
  • Room service

Tray Line Service

Tray line service typically takes place in the cafeteria. Visitors and employees get in line to receive helpings from someone stationed behind a hot bar. The customers then take their food to a cashier to pay for what they’ve chosen.

Hospitals use tray line services to give people convenient access to food. Instead of forcing employees and visitors to leave the facility for food, anyone can visit the cafeteria for meals.

Pod Service

Pod service breaks the tray line into several independent stations. Some hospitals choose pod services because they offer more control over food temperatures and amounts.

Satellite Service

Satellite services extend the kitchen’s reach to provide hot, fresh meals to patients throughout the hospital. It’s an especially useful option in large healthcare facilities because it gives employees more control over quality. Instead of letting food sit unprotected during delivery, employees have access to a small satellite “kitchen,” where they can finish preparing food immediately before serving it.

Room Service

Room service can include any type of hospital food service that brings food directly to a patient’s room. It’s often combined with tray line, pod, and satellite services.

Tools of Food Service Management

New tools and technologies in food service management have let hospitals expand their options to meet broader needs. Some of the best food service management systems integrate with:

  • Self-service kiosks
  • Point-of-sale (POS) tools
  • Mobile ordering applications
  • Reporting and analytics tools

Goals of Food Service Management Technology

Food service management technology should offer exceptional control over your inventory, ordering, and pricing. Each of these factors plays a critical role in maintaining an effective cafeteria that meets individualized needs while staying within budget.

When comparing the tools of food service management, look for options that help you reach goals like:

  • Entering each patient’s nutritional needs and ensuring instructions get followed
  • Tracking ingredients as they’re used in meals
  • Anticipating deliveries that will replenish inventories
  • Giving employees access to vetted recipes and menus
  • Generating financial reports that let you see how your kitchen spends money
  • Creating financial reports that show your kitchen’s sales, revenue, and profits

With hospital food services expanding to include more convenient options, managers need a system that can collect information from every point of service. If your management solution can’t tell you how many items were sold at a self-service kiosk, the cafeteria, and in-patient rooms, you won’t have a complete view of your inventory, expenses, and revenue.

What Happens Without Reliable Food Service Management Tools?

Reliable food service management tools make it much easier for hospital kitchens to track their inventories and budgets. It’s not impossible to manage a hospital kitchen without digital solutions. It is, however, laborious and prone to errors.

Without a digital food service management solution, someone has to track all numbers manually. Eventually, someone will make a mistake. That could mean you end up with too much or too little in your inventory. Either way, you risk losing the money that funds your kitchen.

A reliable food service management tool automates processes to ensure accuracy.

As food service management trends evolve, you want your technology to change, too. A professional solution like Valify receives frequent updates to meet emerging trends. You can make your hospital kitchen more successful by staying ahead of customer demands.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of adopting Valify, schedule a demo to see how the platform could work for you.

Future Prospects of Food Service Management in Hospitals

Technology and customer demands aren’t the only factors shaping the future of healthcare food service management. Food service management trends also need to keep up with changes in patient care.

Manage Food Sources to Meet Patient Needs

Most kitchens prioritize taste over healthfulness. They stay in business by selling tantalizing foods that customers crave.

Hospital kitchens need to address different food service management topics from those that concern most restaurants. Once you step into healthcare, professional food service management also needs to consider the influence food has on patient health.

Some diets hospital food service management programs might need to consider include:

  • Mechanical soft diets with foods that have been prepared specifically for patients who have trouble chewing or digesting whole foods
  • Puree diets that turn all foods into liquids for patients who can’t chew or swallow properly
  • Low-fiber soft diets for patients with gastrointestinal issues that make digesting fiber difficult
  • Carbohydrate-controlled diets with meals that must contain fewer carbs as prescribed by a physician or nutritionist
  • Cardiac diet that includes very little fat to encourage recovery from cardiovascular illnesses
  • Thickened-liquid diet that replaces plain liquids with thicker versions

Many of these diets require special ingredients that typical restaurants wouldn’t keep in stock. Hospital kitchens, however, must have these ingredients on hand to serve their patients. Without meeting dietary requirements, patients could struggle to recover from illnesses and surgeries.

As medical science learns more about the role diets play in health, expect to see more doctors prescribe specific diets for their patients.

Manage Food Sources to Meet Budgetary Requirements

Like every other department in a hospital, the kitchen must meet strict budgetary requirements. Without financial guidelines, it becomes nearly impossible for managers to know whether they will stay within guidelines.

Food service management programs must consider the sources and prices of ingredients. More likely than not, your food and ingredient sources will become more diverse over time. Unless you have a supplier that can provide every item required by your patient diets, you will need to coordinate with several companies.

The right software solution gives you greater oversight of those sources and product costs. You can see precisely where your money goes, which products you have in stock, and when you can expect to run out of items. This level of control allows you to serve hospital patients, employees, and visitors better than you could following manual processes alone.

Want to take greater control of your purchases? Get a Valify demo today to see how it could serve your hospital kitchen. You’ll discover new ways to control inventory, reduce food costs, and serve your healthcare organization.

Talk with our experts to learn how to realize your savings goals and develop sustainable best practices for your health system's purchased services needs.

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