Technology As An Enabler For Food As Medicine

Supriyo Dasgupta is a Head of Digital, Software Engineering, Analytics Engineering at Compass Group India. He has customer Success oriented professional with over 24 years of expertise in designing and executing Business Technology Strategies, Driving Business Technology Transformation Programs, Digital Product Development, Program Management, Transition Management, Business Process Re-engineering, Delivery Governance.

Hospitals position themselves as market leaders due to great medical facilities, specialties, doctors’ demographics, state of the art medical equipment, inroom experiences, and a few success stories. And all that is ‘unquestionable’. However, generally they do not express much about food and nutrition, especially from a health & wellness perspective, from the perspective of quicker recovery. Food does have tremendous power not only to improve the recovery time but also act as true control mechanism of our wellbeing. The next dimension to think about is the time that clinical nutritionists spend in capturing and consolidating dietary needs of patients, any food allergies or intolerances, patients with special dietary needs due to their digestive state, or any comorbidity they carry or due to a surgical process they underwent. In this article I want to touch upon how technology can stitch these and enable the ‘food as medicine’ factor in hospitals and make it a true win-win-win for the patients, the hospitals, and the F&B operators in the hospitals. While none of us would like to re-visit a hospital, but if one needs to, such a holistic experience most likely will make such a hospital, a preferred choice. At the end, like any other consumer space, what must really matter for the hospitals is to ensure a brilliant treatment experience for their patients, that will make both - moral sense as well as business sense.

Since my article is around bringing in technology to address the above stated opportunities, lets understand what it takes to bring in such a technology and is it all worth that time and effort!

At the core of any tech-led business transformation lies a well-designed process. If technology is applied on a broken process, the gap is most likely to widen further

At the core of any tech-led business transformation lies a well-designed process. If technology is applied on a broken process, the gap is most likely to widen further. Therefore, the first step is to bring in sponsorship and therefore form a strategy to solve for the ‘food as medicine’ opportunity. But why would someone sponsor such a program? The starting essence is to promote trust in nutrition science through the food served to the patients. Ask a fundamental question encompassing the core objective of existence of your hospital Is it reasonable to provide food that has been included in a menu due to basic dimensions like safety, taste, cost, and logistics? Or it will make a much higher degree of sense to also consider meals that are medically tailored?

The answer to me is quite clear and I personally feel that must be undisputable. In fact, the fourth dimension of medicinal interventions while designing patient menus does not just stop at menu design and planning but also how to best implement it in a scalable, repeatable, and consistent manner. Thus comes the need for the hospitals to make a conscious shift from food as ‘just another service’ to ‘Food as Medicine’ approach, making it a strategic component in their core business operations.

What will you need though, beyond making ‘Food as Medicine’ a strategic program? To know that lets understand the ‘how’ part for the same. 1. Run it like a “true” Business Transformation Program. There are tons of articles and content on the internet on how to run such Transformation Programs, so let me skip how to run a business transformation program, 2. Create a super-tight clean catalog of ingredients used in the recipes, 3. Create a carefully crafted and tested set of Recipes that is needed to produce the final dishes to be served to the patients, 3. Capture the Nutrition Profile of each ingredient such that they can generate the nutrition /100 gm kind of a dataset that can eventually be utilized by Clinical Nutritionists to use on-the-fly while consulting patients for menu planning across each day part within a given day, really simulate the nutrition profile of every meal that needs special attention, add/remove dishes from an available patient specific menu for each patient, 4. Develop a technology solution that can enable the above actions and also assist the Nutritionists to efficiently plan for the menu for patients with special needs, 5. Feed out the patient meal plans in a consumable format for printing the diet slips, generating the production summary for the kitchen to raise the accurate indent and proceed for the execution.

Certain hospitals will recommend integrating such a solution with their core HIS application, which of course will make the processes even more smooth and more viable to be put into practice.

Does a system like this exists in India? May be, may not, if you consider the entire value chain described above. If it does, you can certainly consider evaluating that. If not, there is no other way but build it. Feel free to reach out to me for details around a solution that is already available for a demo. It will not only help in solving the patient meal planning, but also release some bandwidth for clinical nutritionists to be more productive, efficient and use the ‘gained time’ in performing other key activities that they are expected to do in a hospital, and also pursue other research work that not only will benefit them as individuals but eventually through them to the Hospitals.