Based on recent reports released in September by the American Health Care Association, there are approximately 15,666 certified nursing facilities in the U.S. with a total bed capacity of 1,668,123, of which 1,388,919 patients occupy. Now let’s factor in the total number of patient meals served daily and its plain to see in view of those sizeable figures how foodservice is a major aspect of long term care operations. If long term care facilities aren’t already fostering this area, they will be motivated to start – recent nutritional compliance mandated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) is stressing the importance of quality dietary care. Consequently, surveyors are targeting the adequacy of nutritional and quality service standards more stringently and foodservice professionals must be prepared to answer any inquiries.
Considering how food plays a tremendous role in the experience and level of patient satisfaction, it is evident that automation is beneficial especially in the event a long term care facility encounters an allegation. The risk of placing confidence on manual processes can deem serious legal consequences if handwritten records fail to identify accurate information such as likes, dislikes, allergies and special restrictions. With the chances of human error being so high, food costs or patient dissatisfaction is the least of concerns in comparison to other severe outcomes like allergic reactions, and food-borne illnesses, and even fatalities. Canada Restaurant News points out how the age demographic of today’s long term care residents is much older. Consequently, the severity of food-related outcomes is greater due to the frail immune systems of these residents. Additionally, there appears to be a rise in complicated dietary conditions which makes manual processes an even more ineffective method. Another point to consider is the dining preferences of the Baby Boomer generation. For this health-conscious group, the long term care mealtime experience is finely tuned with a room service program that can provide residents with an interactive and safe approach to selecting their own meals.
All of these supporting factors indicate that foodservice professionals in long term care can make a difference in controlling preventable incidences with the help of automation. As a closing thought, if return on investment is a justification holding back the budgetary gates, rest assured many long term care facilities are reaping the benefits. According to Ed O’Halloran, a food and nutrition professional, Fair Acres Geriatric Center is “… trending 8% reduction in food costs – that is over $200,000” after automating.