In May 2021, the Royal College of Physicians published a report on the importance of nutrition in patient care. This report highlighted that when people are in hospital, they need the right and balanced nutrition to have the best chance of recovery. 

“Good nutrition is an integral component of patient care. Not only does eating correctly provide substantial physical benefits, it also ensures psychological comfort throughout admission.”

The paper went into great detail about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrating how older, frailer patients, with multiple comorbidities and higher rates of malnutrition, fared much worse against the virus. A shocking 40% of patients admitted to hospital are malnourished to some degree, which compounds the issue and renders them vulnerable. Addressing this situation, the report made the following recommendations. 

“Ultimately, the battle against malnutrition requires a collective effort; doctors, nurses, medical and nursing students, volunteers and catering staff all have an essential role to play. Nutrition is an underrated and underutilised tool in the hospital arsenal, and one that has the power to prevent a significant number of chronic diseases, as well as the ability to lessen mortality, reduce morbidity and accelerate recovery. It may have taken a pandemic for us to fully appreciate how crucial it is that the nutritional needs of the population are met…COVID-19 is as good a reason as any to start making nutritional care a part of routine practice on the wards, and has highlighted the need for us to shift our emphasis from tangible medical and surgical treatments to a collective culture focusing on the prevention and maintenance of health.”

The UN Decade of Action on Nutrition

These recommendations haven’t come out of the blue. In 2016, the UN General Assembly, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United  Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) established the ‘UN Decade of Action on Nutrition’. Within this initiative, there is a collective acknowledgement of the concept of ‘food as medicine’. 

In the UK in 2020, a review of hospital food led by Prue Leith and an expert group of NHS caterers, dietitians and nurses issued a blueprint for hospital food. The review, titled ‘Report of the Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food’, made recommendations for ways in which NHS trusts can prioritise food safety and provide more nutritious meals to both staff and patients. The review once again highlighted the impact of the pandemic. 

“As we have made the case in this report, hospital food is not always seen as a priority. Some people might say that the NHS has bigger priorities at the moment. The Government is facing an unprecedented economic downturn and is under a huge amount of spending pressure to support struggling sectors to stay afloat and to kickstart the economy. It would be easy for hospital food, yet again, to be deprioritised. That would be a mistake. 

“The pandemic has shone a light on the importance of good food and proper nutrition, including both the effects of food insecurity and malnutrition and the effects of obesity. We all know that a balanced diet has enormous health and well-being benefits.”

The report recommended that every hospital implement a digital meal ordering system by 2022 to allow for safe ordering and accurate mapping of patients’ care plans; menu offers tailored to dietary needs; reduced time between ordering and meal service; and a reduction of waste. It also suggested that these food ordering systems could be linked to electronic patient records to allow nutrition to become an integral part of overall care.

Recommendations put forward within the review included:

  • Upgrading hospital kitchens so a 24/7 service can be provided to everyone; from a hot drink and a snack in the middle of the night to a hot meal for new mums in a maternity ward or for patients hungry after a long fast due to surgery, plus facilities for staff to store, prepare and eat food at any time during the day or night.

  • Agreeing national professional standards for NHS chefs with mandatory professional development, including appropriate compulsory food hygiene and allergen training.

  • Introducing digital menus and food ordering systems that can factor in a patient’s dietary and cultural requirements and nutritional needs. This will improve communication between dietitians and caterers, reduce food waste and provide patients with the right food for recovery.

Patient ordering for hospitals, clinics and nursing homes

With the concept of food as a form of medicine firmly established, and recommendations made for hospitals to introduce digital menus and food ordering systems, the solution is clear. Healthcare operators need to prioritise nutrition and improve both the safety and nutritional content of hospital food. The Nutritics Meal Ordering System allows hospitals, clinics and nursing homes to do just that. And the benefits of implementing such a system are numerous.  

Nutritics’ patient ordering system strengthens connections between the dietetic department, catering department, ward staff and the patient. The platform enables personalised, evidence-based food choices that enrich the patient experience and improve safety. Patients can access menus via a tablet, online or by scanning a QR code, and are only shown suitable meals based on their own personal requirements and dietary restrictions. The Nutritics Meal Ordering System allows hospitals to optimise and automate the gathering, collating and managing of patient order information.

Below are a number of ways in which digital ordering can protect, support and empower patients, making their entire stay smoother and more comfortable. 

  • Increase patient safety: Nutritics’ Meal Ordering System removes the risk of human error when it comes to dietary requirements and can minimise the risk of malnutrition through automation, increasing overall patient safety.

  • Allows patients to meet caloric and nutritional needs: Advanced filter options make it easy to meet specific nutrition and fortification requirements, making it easier to meet your patients’ medical and nutritional needs.

  • Improve the patient experience: Digital ordering can protect, support and empower patients, improving the overall patient experience throughout their stay. It can ease communication issues, accommodate specific dietary preferences and provide greater transparency around nutritional content.

  • Minimise risk of error: Errors around allergen and other dietary requirements can have serious, potentially fatal consequences. An integrated patient ordering system can remove the risk of human error, protecting patients in the process. 

For more information on how implementing the right digital ordering system can benefit your healthcare facility, talk to one of our experts today.

Learn more about Nutritics’ patient ordering system here.