Top Trends in Healthcare Food Services for 2021

Change has been a defining characteristic of healthcare of the past decade, but never more so than it has been in the last year. The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered how the healthcare industry operates, forcing executives to find cutting-edge solutions to a variety of problems in their facilities.

One of the industries that have experienced a massive influx of new trends is the Healthcare Foodservices industry. This industry has been going through exciting innovations since before 2020, and these innovations have continued to grow exponentially since then. Below are some of the top trends in healthcare food services for 2021.

Excellent Room Service

Room service for patients staying in a hospital is one of the most radical trends of the last several decades. Several hospitals have already included this in their list of healthcare food services. Room service has many benefits to the hospital and keeps the patient happy during their stay.

One of the most significant benefits of room service is that patients are no longer crowded together in cafeterias or tray lines, which helps in mitigating the spread of diseases like Covid-19. It also significantly decreases food waste, which helps hospitals increase profits. Additionally, this allows healthcare workers to more closely monitor the food intake of patients with dietary restrictions.

Offering Menu Variety

Dietary restrictions are increasing, so offering a menu with a wide variety of foods is one way in which healthcare food services meet the needs of the patient. Many healthcare facilities are offering plant-based or gluten-free menus, which have significant benefits for patients. Some facilities are also offering a much more varied list of cultural cuisines, such as Indian, Thai, and Moroccan foods.

Some facilities may have challenges sourcing spices and produce for these menus. However, the positive impact this has on the patient often outweighs any difficulty in getting these ingredients.

Prioritizing Sustainability

A popular trend among healthcare foodservice providers is to place a greater focus on sustainability. Healthcare communities and hospitals do this by sourcing as much food from local, sustainable sources as possible. Finding local produce for the facilities menu options is not only sustainable, but it eases challenges that may exist when finding ingredients for plant-based dishes.

Working with Hospital Space Restraints

Hospitals and healthcare facilities were struggling with space restraints before the pandemic hit. Now that there are regulations that require significant distances between patients, staff, and other such things, the challenge to find enough space is even greater. Healthcare food services can require a significant amount of space to operate, which may come at a premium.

To meet this challenge, many healthcare food service providers are investing in equipment that uses space more efficiently than traditional equipment. They are also starting to implement off-site food preparation, pickup, and delivery for hospital staff members.

Major Tech Advancements

As with anything in the modern age, technology is drastically changing how healthcare food service industries streamline their food preparation process. Several companies have started to design software that manages the food production process from start to finish. These programs not only help to serve the patient better, but they help hospitals and healthcare facilities control the cost, nutritional content, and quality of the food they are preparing.

Not only do these programs track the food production process, but they can also track where the food goes once it leaves the kitchen. This tracking method allows hospital and healthcare facility staff to ensure patients receive their food in a timely manner and that their meals are never mixed up.

Introducing Mobile Ordering

Mobile phones have revolutionized how the average person interacts with the world, and healthcare food services are no exception. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have integrated mobile ordering into their food service plan, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. Hospitals are using QR codes as a way for patients to quickly order food from their rooms, which greatly speeds up the entire process. These innovations are only beginning, and many healthcare food service providers are dedicated to the continuous improvement of streamlined mobile ordering technology.

A Greater Focus on Patient Experience

Similar to consumer expectations, patient expectations for food service continue to shift with each passing year. Since the start of the pandemic, patients have expected a unique approach to food service, and healthcare facilities are valued based on how well they are able to put patient experience at the center of their food service setup.

Many of the changes being made in this area have to do with the patients’ overall comfort and level of convenience in ordering that is available to them. Hospitals have been stepping up with more than just mobile ordering and room service. They have also started to include options for ordering ahead of time, including picking up both outside and inside of the in-house hospital cafe.

Building a Positive Staff Culture

It is not a stretch to say that hospital staff are often overworked and overwhelmed, and this can also be a significant factor for the food service department. When staff is not satisfied with their duties, it can lead to major hiccups in the overall food service experience for patients. Many healthcare facilities are making important changes to their food service structure in order to better accommodate the needs of the staff and create a more positive culture.

Changes that support a positive staff culture include improved team communication, continuously adapting and updating performance standards, and ensuring there is proper coverage for breaks, vacations, and other events in which a staff member may be absent. Healthcare facilities are also pouring resources into staff training to ensure they are adept in stress management, prioritization of tasks, customer service, and recruiting and retaining staff members.

The Bottom Line Healthcare spaces have no shortage of challenges to overcome, and the healthcare food service industry requires data-driven answers to stay ahead of the game. The healthcare food services industry is constantly changing to meet the expectations of patients while remaining profitable for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Following the latest trends in the industry is the best way to ensure a healthcare facility is doing its best to provide excellent food service.

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