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MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — Limited food choices and cafeteria-style dining.
That's how patients at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital used to eat.
But now, patients at the hospital are being welcomed with another choice: room service dining.
"Over the years, the hospitals have converted to room service, allowing them (patients) to order what they want to, when they want to," said Diane Pursley, nutrition services manager at IU Health.
Most IU Health hospitals are now providing room service, said Glenn Pope, director of support services for IU Health BMH.
Other hospitals in Indiana outside the IU Health network that have made this change include St. Vincent and Peyton Manning Children's hospitals.
Since Nov. 10, patients at IU Health BMH have been able to choose their meals from the hospital's room service dining menu.
The hospital's new food service has not been around for as long as those of other hospitals because it is a financial investment because of new equipment and new staff members.
More than eight staffers were hired to provide the most efficient room service dining experience for patients. And that was necessary because dozens of menu items are listed for patients.
They include, but are not limited to:
Breakfast: French toast, omelets, pastries, cereal and fruit.
Lunch: Soups, salads, deli favorites, sandwiches, crusted chicken, fish, pasta and grilled meats.
There are also several drink and dessert options from which to choose.
When it comes to cost, a patient isn't charged a fee different from regular hospital food and dining.
However, family members are charged $6.95 for the room service option.
But what if a patient has to watch what he or she is eating, or has a dietary restriction?
That's where Mandy Puckett, registered dietitian and manager of nutrition and weight management systems at BMH Bariatric and Medical Weight Loss Center, comes in.
She communicates with both Pursley and floor "ambassadors" to make sure the patient is happy and eating healthy.
"When patients are eating better, certainly that will help their nutritional status, which would hope to impact their outcome and recovery positively," Puckett said.
Ambassadors are stationed on the floors and become familiar to patients by using an iPad to take each patient's order.
The iPad also contains a patient's charts, allowing the ambassador to makes sure patients such as Marion Clawson are aware of their diets and what they are eating and ordering.
"They actually take the orders from the patients who need help, and they deliver all the trays to all the patients in their zone," Pursley said. "They kind of develop a relationship with those patients, where before it would be a different tray-passer every day."
Clawson was staying in the hospital's general medical unit recently.
He had ordered a few meals from the menu during his stay, and said they'd all been good.
The challenge in the kitchen? "Trying to meet that goal within the time the tickets get there, for the patients," Samantha Webster, service assistant said.
For patients who want to call down to the kitchen's call center to order, that can be a challenge due to early calls, late calls and holds.
"Over time what we hope to do is have the ambassador select (food) with more of the patients to reduce the number of calls," Pursley said.
But when it comes to patient satisfaction with the food, all seems to be going smoothly.
"From the patients, as far as the quality of the food, the feedback has been really good," Pursley said. "The patients are really happy with their choices."
Another positive change? The amount of food that no longer goes to waste.
Under the previous system, "They spent tremendous energy getting food to the floor, the patient didn't eat it, it was brought all the way back downstairs, and we were wasting a lot of food," said Pope. "Now with this, there's a lot less waste and we hope to offset some costs with food savings."
Both Pursley and the nutrition services team were awarded a 2015 Values Leadership Award this month for their hard work and service.
Pursley plans to continue leading this new program during its transition from traditional meals to room service dining.
Source: The Star Press, http://tspne.ws/1RRe0Zg
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com
This is an AP Member Exchange story shared by The Star Press.