What technologies can help achieve best practice in hospital kitchens?
It’s time to move away from handwritten, paper-based logs and embrace digital technology, software platforms and modern cooking equipment.
Modernising the kitchen operations of healthcare organisations with digital technology and installing new equipment will lower operating costs and improve business performance. For this to materialise, leaders must have a good understanding of operational pain points and current and future business needs to effect necessary changes. It is important that the challenges faced by kitchen operations are clearly identified and documented in order to find the best solutions.
Equipment suppliers working in unison with clients can devise an effective implementation strategy, including employee training, configuring equipment and devices, and planning for going live.
Technology and equipment options
1. Food safety management
Digital food safety monitoring systems for managing food safety risks help healthcare organisations by streamlining food safety compliance and paperwork. They are essential to help protect customers from an incident of foodborne illness. Brand protection is also important.
The latest monitoring systems range from Bluetooth temperature sensors, software and smartphone apps to fully connected networks of kitchen equipment that can automatically check key food safety data.
In the 2020 Winter edition of Hospital + Healthcare I discussed the benefits of digital monitoring technology in my article ‘Food safety: the benefits of digital monitoring technology’. Digital data technology allows kitchen operations to be viewed in a live state — review of the data allows trends to be identified so that changes can be made to processes or procedures to improve performance.
2. Cloud: kitchen management tools
Cloud-based kitchen management tools enable kitchen operations to track and improve business performance through automating daily tasks: managing food costs and stock control levels, stocktaking and electronic ordering systems. Human error and data entry are reduced.
3. Kitchen equipment
Modern commercial kitchen equipment has cutting-edge features that significantly improve productivity. With the release of new equipment there are temperature-control specifications, programming efficiency, cleaning automation and inbuilt ventilation systems. Reduced labour costs are achieved by automating routine tasks.
Cook and hold ovens improve efficiency in preparing large portions of food. They cook food at low temperatures until the desired internal temperature is reached through a penetrating temperature probe, or until the timer signals to switch into holding mode.
A combi oven is a three-in-one oven that can cook using convection heat, steam or a combination of both. Highly efficient combi ovens add another layer of technology by offering the option for remote control and monitoring.
Other benefits include reduced energy costs and that they take up less space than two single-purpose gas-fired chef ovens. Food-temperature monitoring keeps patients and customers safe from the risk of food poisoning.
4. Menu ordering systems
Digital menu ordering and food management systems are specifically designed for kitchen operations across healthcare organisations to accept and manage food orders placed over the internet. It saves time, reduces error and improves the overall quality of care.
5. Internal auditing
Enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of internal audits with digital tools will greatly reduce the burden of ensuring compliance with food safety standards. With many tools offering flexible report formats and filtering capabilities, users are empowered with the right information at the right time.
6. Flat mop system
Whatever the cleaning system, improvements to flat mop cleaning systems provide impressive results. With safety in mind, these mops outperform bucket-and-press systems and increase cleaning speed, performance, versatility and ergonomics, resulting in lower overall costs. They work exceptionally well on non-slip floor surfaces commonly found in kitchen operations and dry floor surfaces quickly, thus reducing slip hazards. They are lightweight and easy to use.
7. Disposable cup sealer — cafeteria
New sealing technology gives a spill-resistant solution for takeaway coffee. This technology eliminates plastic press-on lids by applying a plastic seal on hot and cold disposable cups. Instead of having hundreds of lids in a single big box, you have a tiny box with two sealing film rolls in it. To seal cups of almost any size, simply place the filled cup into a vertical port on the machine where a liquid-tight, plastic seal is applied to the top within seconds.
The way ahead
Global foodservice operations have changed significantly. Healthcare organisations need to embrace digital technologies and the utilisation of modern equipment and practices to transform their kitchen processes into a modern and efficient kitchen operation. This will lead these operations down the path of best industry practice.
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