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One plate at a time: Health care meets hospitality

Lydia Aziz, a menu assistant, holds a tablet with the pre-order food app.

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Original story posted on the Beat (internal newsletter) by Gurleen Dhessi, Consultant Public Affairs, Communications and Public Affairs at Fraser Health.

Choice Dining is an innovative hospital food service that helps empower patients and their loved ones with the power of meal selection while also reducing food waste.

Thanks to a new program called Choice Dining, patients at two of our hospitals now have more food choices. Patients can pre-order food using an app or by speaking to a menu assistant at their bedside.

Previously, the process was to take patients’ food preferences, but this wasn’t very flexible and sometimes restricted more items than necessary,” says Kaitlin Wilkie, director, Food Operations. “We wanted to ensure patients can see all their options and are empowered to choose foods they like. This minimizes food waste, as patients are more likely to enjoy the meals they select.”

Choice Dining was first launched as a pilot project at Royal Columbian Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital in the spring of 2023.

“Patients and their families can remotely select meals, providing a seamless and user-friendly experience,” says Kaitlin. “The menu assistant offers personalized support by engaging patients directly at their bedside and addresses any questions or concerns in real-time.”

While the app appeals to tech-savvy patients and family members, a menu assistant can assist in person with meal selections.

“Both options are important. The menu assistant option is currently more widely used than the app because the assistants come directly to the bedside,” says Kaitlin. “The app appeals to younger patients and loved ones who can remotely choose meals on behalf of a patient from any compatible device.”

The Food Operations team believes the Choice Dining Program will improve patients’ dining experiences while reducing malnutrition and food waste.

Often, a lot of uneaten food comes back on trays,” says Kaitlin. “We are looking at reducing waste, and the literature supports that one way to reduce that is to give patients a choice in what they’re eating.”

Choice Dining is limited to lunch and dinner in specific hospital units and excludes patients on certain diets. However, the Food Operations team is working on increasing their offerings by adding breakfast and including a wider variety of diets in the future.

The Food Operations team plans to expand Choice Dining across hospitals in the Fraser Health region. By embracing innovation and patient-centered approaches, the team is paving the way for transformative changes, one meal at a time.