Did you know the first vitamin, thiamine, was isolated and chemically defined in 1926? From that singular event emerged the science of nutrition and its every expanding role in human health and well-being. Let’s take a deeper look into nutrition in today’s setting, especially how it’s dealt with patients in a hospital setting like processing approved meal orders into a hospital’s computer system.    

What Is Nutrition Care?

Nutritional care is defined by the medical establishment as providing adequate and appropriate food and drinks to both inpatient and outpatient. The dietary department of a hospital, also known as food and nutrition services, has the responsibility for such care to its patients. It also takes charge in teaching proper diet and nutrition to patients upon discharge from the hospital.

The Important of Nutrition

Nutrition is a critical part of the health, development, and healing of patients. Meeting their nutritional requirement is important to:

  • Maintain or gain weight 
  • Improve muscle mass and function 
  • Improve infant, child, and maternal health 
  • Develop stronger immune systems 
  • Safer pregnancy and childbirth 
  • Lower risk of diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Increase life expectancy
  • Improve clinical outcomes 
  • Reduce complications 

Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and seizure disorders are affected by diet. Almost half of all deaths attributed to such chronic diseases are linked to poor eating habits. Healthy eating helps people with these conditions manage their conditions, avoid complications, and to live longer. 

There’s another benefit. Healthy patients reduce hospital costs in the form of lower readmission rates. This is when a patient who has been discharged is admitted again within a certain time frame. Educating patients on their diet and how it can prevent such relapses benefits both in the long run.

Your Nutrition Team

The staffing of most hospital food and nutrition teams is quite extensive. Members include:

A physician nutrition specialist is a provider who is board-certified with additional training or extensive clinical experience in nutrition therapy.

A speech-language pathologist (also known as speech therapists) are called to assess, diagnose, help, and treat patients with swallowing disorders like dysphagia (difficulty with swallowing) which prevent them from obtaining nutrition via oral means.

The dietitian is trained and certified to use medical nutrition therapies in the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders and diseases like anorexia nervosa and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

Nutritionists deal with general nutritional aims and behaviors. These include:

  • Assess the patient’s nutritional and health needs.
  • Counsel on nutrition issues and healthy eating habits.
  • Develop meal and nutrition plans.
  • Evaluate and monitor the effects of nutrition plans.

Nutrition or dietary aides assist with nutrition services like prepping meals. 

Hospital food service workers are responsible for the preparation and serving of meals to patients, visitors, and staff. These meals can number in the thousands per day. Food service workers can be found in the hospital kitchen, cafeteria, and patients’ rooms. 

Other roles involved in nutrition include the senior nurse manager, the director of food and nutrition, and the various chefs and their assistants.

Hospital Diets: What Are They? 

A patient’s nutritional needs while in the hospital vary depending on their illness. Their provider, working with other nutritional experts like dietitians, determine and order the appropriate meals. Here are a few common diets and what they mean:

  • Regular Diet – Also referred to as a general or normal diet. The meals incorporate a wide variety of foods and calories based on the Dietary Guidelines and the Food Guide Pyramid.
  • Mechanical Soft Diet – Meals here consist of food that are soft in texture, moderately low in fiber, and processed by chopping, grinding, or pureeing. These make them easier to chew.  
  • Puree Diet – Meals on this diet include mashed potatoes, pudding, and foods blended or strained with liquids to make them smoother to make them and easier to swallow.
  • Low Fiber Diet – Also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) soft diet. Fiber is limited on this type of diet to around 10 grams daily.
  • Carbohydrate Controlled Diet – Also called the Diabetic Diet, amount of carbohydrates like starches are carefully regulated in a patient’s meals.
  • Cardiac Diet – The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is based on this. Patients are limited to the amount of sodium, or salt, in their meals. Foods that are limited or avoided include commercially prepared foods such as cured or smoked meats, canned vegetables and regular soups, as well as buttermilk, salt, and salty foods. 
  • Thickened Liquids Restrictions – As mentioned earlier, dysphagia is difficulty with swallowing. Liquids like soups or even water are commonly given thickened liquids so patients can safely consume them. 

Other forms of diets like vegetarian, renal (kidney), full liquid, and clear liquid may also be ordered by providers.  

Food and Nutrition and Computers

Computers aid the dietary department by processing the numerous food orders as efficiently as possible. A food service member receives a call for example from a patient regarding their meal. Their electronic medical record (EMR) is brought up on the medical panel PC to make sure it complies with the provider’s instructions. Or the patient directly speaks with a roving nutritional aide who takes the order on their medical tablet. Regardless, if the request checks out, it’s sent to the kitchen to be prepared then delivered to the patient usually within the hour. 

The best computers to work in this environment usually have the following properties: 

Fanless design – These computers keep cool without the use of moving parts. This means their interiors won’t be damaged in the kitchen from food particles like flour. This extends their use and longevity, an important point for hospitals and their tight budgets. 

Rated IP65 sealed – Many computers today are touchscreens, especially all-in-one models. That makes them a high touch point item that needs frequent cleaning, a necessity in hospitals. Computers with IP65 rating come with sealed front bezels and sides. This protects them from the many liquids found in hospital kitchens and is able to withstand harsh liquid cleaners as well. 

Closing Comments 

Nutrition plays a vital role in healthcare. The right meals can help patients recover more quickly and thoroughly during their stay in a hospital, to help manage chronic diseases like diabetes. The dietary department uses computers to properly process patient’s meal requests during their hospital stay. 

If your healthcare group is interested in which enterprise grade computers are right for your hospital food and nutrition departments, contact a representative from Cybernet. 

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