Winning the war on waste
Mater’s chief operating officer Sean Hubbard says benefits include significant improvement in customer satisfaction levels, reduction in food wastage (both in production and on the plate) and improved patient nutrition.
“There’s typically significant waste in traditional hospital food service models,” Hubbard says. “Patients’ orders are taken well in advance of meal times, and large amounts of food are prepared in a bulk cooking model to be delivered at set meal times.”
“With the room service or ‘cook on demand’ model, food is only produced when ordered so the wastage associated with long lead time forecasting models is reduced, and plate waste – which averages between 30 and 50 per cent – is significantly reduced. Patients order what and when they feel like eating, so they eat almost all the ordered food.
“Our plate waste has reduced to 17 per cent – that contributes to significant savings. We’ve had an initial annual 26 per cent reduction in food costs.”
As those results don’t account for food cost inflation, the cost savings are actually likely to be even higher.
“There’s improved nutritional intake by patients which in turn assists recovery,” Hubbard continues. “Malnourished patients have a longer hospital stay, greater risk of complications and poorer in-hospital clinical outcomes, which can also significantly add to costs.”
Improvement through innovation
The Mater’s room service model was first rolled out at Mater Private Hospital Brisbane in 2013, and from 2015 other facilities within the group started implementing it. In April, Mater’s entire South Brisbane campus switched over to the new system and it’s now delivering more than 2,000 meals a day to patients. Underpinned with an on-site call centre, it enables patients to order from a personalised menu of clinically suitable options that are then freshly made and delivered to their rooms within 45 minutes.
Hubbard says the plan was driven by a desire to create a better service for patients through a strong collaboration between its Nutrition and Dietetics and Food Services operations.
“Like many hospitals in Australia, we had a very traditional manual model in place whereby patients made menu choices well in advance of mealtimes, often with little interaction with staff, and were then served at set times often not suited to them,” Hubbard says.
“The result was many late and extra meal deliveries. Patients often didn’t get their meal choice and there was significant waste. Patient satisfaction with food was poor and their nutritional intake was suboptimal.
“By focusing on all these key drivers – consumer engagement and satisfaction plus improved clinical and organisational outcomes – the room service model was implemented.”