August 19, 2013

The Spice Rack goes hi-tech

Submitted by Gordon Hospital

CALHOUN — Doctors and nurses aren’t the only ones utilizing the latest technology devices at Gordon Hospital.

The hospital’s cafeteria, The Spice Rack, has also become more hi-tech, says Director of Nutritional Services Russ Couron.

“In the past, we monitored food temperatures with traditional thermometers and recorded them manually in a log book,” Couron explains. “Not only is this method not very efficient, but it is also lacks in accountability.”

To protect patients and patrons from foodbourne illnesses, and to comply with state, federal, and local regulations regarding food safety, the temperature of all food in The Spice Rack must be carefully monitored and recorded.

Thanks to a new computer software program, accompanied by a mobile application on an iPod, this process is now much more reliable and efficient.

“Using a thermometer attached to an iPod, food temperatures are automatically recorded and compiled into a report that I can pull up on my computer at a moments notice,” Couron explains. “Best of all, if there is a problem with the temperatures, I receive an instant alert of the problem.”

The application, called FusionLive, was developed by E-Control Systems Inc. of Sherman Oaks, CA specifically to meet Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.

“This application provides us with a snapshot of our entire operation on a single screen,” Couron adds. “Reports and graphs are also automatically generated to show trends so that we may immediately incorporate corrective actions and preventative measures to enhance our operation.”

But while huge steps are being taken to improve The Spice Rack’s safety and efficiency, Couron says he isn’t forgetting about what he calls “the little things” either.

“There are a lot of little things that we have also changed recently that may not seem like a big deal, but are actually huge steps in making our cafeteria more appealing,” he explains. “We have completely redesigned our patient trays to make them not only more attractive, but also better at maintaining proper temperatures whether hold or cold.”

The use of Styrofoam and plastic wrap have greatly been reduced, he says, and replaced with more durable containers and lids.

“It’s a bit more work for our staff,” Couron adds, “but it significantly cuts down on our waste and allows us to present a much more attractive meal to our patients.”

Recommendations by patients are leading to additional changes in The Spice Rack that Couron hopes to implement within the coming year.

“We take our patients’ comments and suggestions very seriously,” he says. “One such suggestion that we are working to implement now is a restaurant-style menu.”

Couron is making plans to incorporate a computer ordering system where each patient orders their individual, medically-allowed meal and that order is immediately and wirelessly transmitted from the patient’s room to the kitchen.

“With this process, a member of our nutritional staff will be in every patient room two or three times a day to take their orders and address any nutritional concerns they may have,” Couron explains. “While this will increase our labor, it will significantly reduce our food costs because the patient will only get what they order. Sometimes they just want a salad and a small sandwich.”

In addition, this process will give the nutritional services department more direct contact with their customers.

“Meeting the nutritional needs of Gordon Hospital’s patients is our number one goal,” Couron says. “We never stop searching for ways to improve our service and quality.”