Birmingham Children’s Hospital has implemented a new food ordering and management system, which will collect and process patient meal orders using Panasonic Toughbooks.

In partnership with software developers Ambinet, the trust has created an application for electronic food ordering called ‘Maple’, which it hopes will “revolutionise mealtimes."

Louise Kiely, associate director of facilities at the trust, told eHealth Insider the trust was the first in the UK to implement such a system and that a phased-roll out has started across all wards in the hospital.

“We believe it is a brilliant system and we are very excited at the benefits this will bring our patients and our staff. If our patients see a picture they are more likely to order the correct meal, suited to their needs, reducing waste and improving their experience.

“We previously used paper menus, and this caused problems as often our patients do not have English as their first language. So the visual element of this system will benefit all of our patients,” she said.

Nurses add patients to Maple (menu acquisition portal with live entry) when they arrive on the ward. When they need to order, the menu is provided on the Toughbook device.

Dieticians have specific input to each patient’s menu, preventing them from ordering unsuitable items that might impact on their treatment or condition.

Staff will be able to send instant messages to the main production kitchen, send orders electronically either individually or in batches, and update the location of the patient if he/she moves wards, which Birmingham hope will help to reduce food wastage.

The trust has “cautiously” forecast that the system will initially save £50,000 in the first year through the removal of the traditional paper menus and by improving the efficiency of staff.

“The very clear benefit of this system is the release of time for staff to direct more time into the care of patients. We will also collect and receive financial reports on the device which will allow us to see more information on what we are spending,” Kiely said.

She also told EHI that the success of the implementation has encouraged Birmingham Children’s to explore the possibility of selling it to other trusts.

The system was originally piloted on two wards and taken to a local school, where pupils provided the trust with feedback on how it could improve the visual aspect of the system.

“This patient demographic tends to use a lot of technology and we wanted to provide them with the clinical equivalent of the iPad and that was the Toughbook.

“As our patient population is made up of patients between the ages of 0-18 we wanted to make a system that was more fun and more visual, giving ownership to the patients and improving the decisions they make in relation to food.”

The roll-out of the system is set to be completed by 15 June.