Using Nutrition Technology to Feed Data-Hungry Managers
| BY BRENDA RICHARDSON, MA, RD, CD, LD|
Using nutrition technology to feed data-hungry managers
With the right software, information systems can add speed and accuracy to the facility’s dietary operations
| Application of information technology (IT) to nutrition in long-term care is increasing as providers strive to offer better customer service and positive nutritional outcomes while maintaining and improving daily operations. Today’s IT for nutrition offers everything from complete dietary department management systems (purchasing, receiving, inventory, menu and meal planning, clinical nutrition, and overall systems integration) to individual software components designed for specific tasks. Current trends in LTC dietary IT systems include areas listed in table 1.|
Significant cost savings through the use of nutrition software and databases have been reported. With proper IT use, accuracy of operations can be improved, while overall labor time is decreased. In fact, a retirement services company in Ohio operating 11 nursing centers reduced average daily food cost for each of its 2,700 residents by 10%. Individual meal costs dropped from $5.28 to $4.74, resulting in more than $500,000 in annual savings. Suppliers (see selected list, table 2) of nutrition-related IT are increasing and expanding the features available with it.
Integration of nutrition-related IT with overall facility IT systems has been on the rise, as well. For example, Alma Sudderth, MS, RD, LD, senior vice-president of sales, marketing, and business development for SureQuest Systems, Inc., noted that facilities are now including the writing of interfaces as a part of their contract. In the case of this company’s product, the interface allows data to be imported from the facility’s patient information system to SureQuest’s Three Squares« Nutrition and Food Service Management Software. Information such as the current “diet order” can be imported from the patient information system to generate a meal/tray card. This ensures that the diet order is accurate when printing meal orders for the patient.
PDAs and Nutrition Management
| Table 1. Dietary System IT Trends in Long-Term Care|
Inventory and Cost Control
Menu Planning and Meal Production
Clinical Nutrition Systems
Overall Systems Integration
|Companies such as Dietary Software, Inc. offer handheld computers for dietary professionals. Handhelds can be extremely useful to nutrition professionals in LTC. The nutritional software is used with clinical nutrition assessments and medical nutrition therapy, while retaining all the functionality of a PalmPilotÖ. Information can be entered into a main computer when it is available or into the PDA anywhere and anytime. The information is synchronized, new information replaces old information, and data are stored in multiple locations. Confidential data are then protected through use of a security password or auto-lock availability.|
PDAs are often used as a companion to larger systems and are primarily used in nutrition for:
In selecting the right handheld, it is important to check on details such as the operating system (Palm OS« or Pocket PC), storage capacity, features, screen quality, weight, size, and battery life. Privacy safeguards should be available for all protected healthcare information, and the PDA software should be designed for compliance with HIPAA requirements. The PDA informational resource https://pdaRD.com offers expert advice from registered dietitians on buying a PDA, looking for software, seeking tech solutions, and using PDAs to enhance nutrition practice or business. The Web site offers informative and up-to-date comparison charts on handhelds, as well as information on LTC nutrition-related software and database companies for handhelds.
| Table 2. Selected Dietary Software Applications Suppliers*|
Dietary management systems usually include multiple features such as inventory, purchasing, forecasting, cost analysis, clinical nutrition, diet office, nutrient analysis, and menu planning. These systems may interface with admissions, business office, patient information, order entry, laboratory, and pharmacy systems. Many vendors offer dietary systems bundled with other types of software. Check with the supplier for specific feature information.
| ADL Data Systems, Inc.|
Creative Solutions Unlimited, Inc.
Data Control Technology, Inc.
DFM Technologies, Inc.
Dietary Software, Inc.
DietMaster Systems, Inc.
Interactive Health Network
| Nutrition Company, The|
OneTouch Technologies Corp.
Prime Care Technologies
Quality Business Solutions, Inc.
Reliable Health Systems, LLC
SureQuest Systems, Inc.
Threshold Data Technology, Inc.
Vision Software Technologies, Inc.
|*Contact the individual supplier for specific prices. This list is for informational purposes only. This is an incomplete list. Exclusion of any related suppliers was unintentional and does not reflect an endorsement of any supplier listed or excluded.|
Disclaimer: All programs have their own license agreements. Please read and follow them. Brenda E. Richardson, MA, RD, CD, LD, and Nursing Homes/Long Term Care Management magazine are not responsible for damage caused by or difficulty with suppliers’ programs, or problems they might cause to computer hardware and software, and make no warranty for their fitness for their specific use.
Although the state of nutrition-related IT changes daily, “technologically ready” options are available to achieve desired results. You can prevent your facility information system from being “nutritionally deficient” by knowing the types of nutrition-related IT available to the industry and determining which system is right for you. Nutrition-related IT can be incorporated into your facility’s overall IT plan to prepare for comprehensive regulatory compliance, financial management of food service operations, and precise execution of medical nutrition therapy.
|Brenda Richardson, MA, RD, CD, LD, is owner and president of Premier Nutrition, as well as an author, publisher, and a national speaker with 20+ years experience in directing multimillion-dollar food service operations. For more information, phone (812) 276-1933, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.brendarichardson.com. To comment on this article, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For reprints in quantities of 100 or more, call (866) 377-6454.|
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