Patients at Via Christi Hospitals on St. Francis, E. Harry and St. Teresa can order their food by phone from an expanded, restaurant-style menu.
Instead of taking large carts loaded with trays of foods ordered the day before to units at specified meal times, runners take individual orders to patient rooms as soon as they are prepared - any time between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. No one delivers more than three trays per trip, so that hot foods arrive hot and cold foods, cold. Delivery goal is 45 minutes or sooner, according to Wanda Reinking, director of Nutrition Services.
"Room service allows patients control in a limited-control environment," Reinking said. "It's an important part of patient satisfaction. When food is cooked to order and served when the patient is hungry, it more closely reflects the patient's home schedule."
"Sometimes food from the tray line arrived when the patient was away for tests or X-rays, or their diet had been changed since they ordered yesterday, or they simply felt too sick to eat - so that food was wasted. Under the previous system, we served at least 50 replacement trays per meal."
The call center takes the patient's order, matching the request to any specific diet orders. The tray ticket prints in the kitchen and the food is prepared. Call center staff monitor the frequency of meal orders and run a report three times a day. If a patient hasn't ordered a meal, the center follows up with the patient's nurse or Hospitality member for a recommendation.
Nursing staff determines orders for a patient who cannot order, even getting preferences from family members, and a visiting family member can order several days of meals for a patient in advance. Family members also can order a guest tray for $10, paying by cash, MasterCard, Visa or Discover when it is delivered.
Room service is more cost effective than traditional tray line food service, Reinking said.
"Anything we can do to help our patients get the nutrition they need to heal, that's our goal."