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How should Smart Catering in Smart Hospitals look like?

Digitalized Group Catering Service of Sodexo Supports Upgrading of Medical Industry

In 2019, 5G has been no doubt one of the hot topics most closely followed by the public, owing to the revolutionary changes and development that a new technology may bring about to the business and society. With the digitalization in the process, there is no exception.

American Internet venture capitalist Mary Meeker pointed out in the “2019 Internet Trends Report” that with consumer requirements continuously moving forward, the healthcare industry in the United States is becoming progressively digitalized, and the similar trending is happening across the whole world. In China, Sodexo is making process to advance for digitalization and has become a leading role with several successful cases in the medical industry. 

Beginning of the Digitalization Concept in 2009

As for the Healthcare Segment of Sodexo China, the starting point of the digitalization can be traced back to 2009, when Segment Director Grace Han visited the United States and learnt about American Hospital Information Systems (HIS). The digitalized system and management can not only provide immediate adjustments to diet according to doctors’ prescriptions and personally manage the patients’ allergic constitution, but also provide personalized diet solution based on patients’ preferences – whether a patient prefers fish or beef, for example, such preference will be recorded the system as a special label. With these improvements in hospitals’ services, it marks a significant change in VIP medical services. “Seeing this type of system implemented in the United States in 2009 made me really want to bring this back to China. However we cannot simply copy it, because Chinese hospitals have their own characteristics and we would need to adapt it to our local circumstances.”

Adapted Management Systems for Chinese Hospitals

Grace’s team later worked with IT department and developed a product for the China market, named 优E+, a Nutritional Meal IT Solution. In China, public hospitals are dominant, so the adaptation needs to done according to their needs and systems. “Our 优E+ system can be integrated into Chinese public hospitals’ HIS, and it ensures meals delivery with error-free. Most importantly, it has further improved the satisfaction levels of patients.” Grace made an emphasis on patients’ experience that using iPads to order meals would greatly improve patient satisfaction. Today, with Sodexo’s 优E+ system, patients can now use iPads to order the appointed meals designed by Sodexo clinical dietitian. Compared to hospitals previous “Meal Trolley” service, patients’ experiences have improved tremendously.

Furthermore, with the entire system being digitalized, estimation of the nutritional meals consumption need practically no “forecasting” because even if there are more than 1,000 patients to serve, the system can immediately synchronize itself on the back-end. This creates a complete Ordering which will be directed to the Ordering Center. It helps minimize the food waste and completely improves operation efficiency. Every patient can now use labels to process any special requirements they may have, thereby achieving a completely customized integration. The system also reduces service personnel workloads as Sodexo optimized the iPad user experience on the front-end to keep service personnel from needing to input unnecessary information, as in most cases, all it takes is a slide or a click on an iPad.

This digital system with “China Characteristics” officially went alive in 2012. To prepare for this, Sodexo has spent nearly a year sorting through hospitals’ nutritional meal workflows and worked alongside IT departments to focus on user needs and expectations and to carry out the customization and development, while satisfying the requirements of hospitals, patients, and the Sodexo operation team.

In 2012, the system launched at the Shanghai General Hospital, and to this day, Sodexo systems and services are now fully in use at 7 to 8 hospitals in Shanghai. Since 2009, with a global vision, Sodexo team found great potential and prospect of these systems, having brought together an in-depth development of technology and introduced high-quality services in domestic market, as well as receiving a great amount of recognition. “We are still in the process of continuous development. For instance, embedding WeChat functions, particularly for patients with more special needs, will allow them to personalize their experience from the comfort of their mobile phones.” Grace stated that Sodexo team adds new functions every year or two so that the system can catch up with emerging requirements and maintain a vital presence in the market.

Adapted Management Systems for Chinese Hospitals

“This system is, to some extent, ‘one-of-a-kind’ in China.” said Grace. Innovation has always been the top priority of Sodexo team, and the key to the competitiveness, authoritativeness and reputation of Sodexo in the industry.

Along with services for inpatients and healthcare professionals, Sodexo’s digital system offers many “additional benefits” - for instance, supports in hospital ratings in terms of diet assessment and medical procedure traceability. “Sodexo’s system can help hospitals better understand their actual level of management. This is particularly important to hospital executives.” said Grace.

Today, Sodexo is highly recognized in the industry for its outstanding services to a wide range of private and public healthcare organizations, such as supports to United Family Hospital(USF) Shanghai’s in its JCI Accreditation, as well as clinic diets process improvement for Shanghai General Hospital and Tong Ren Hospital, SJTU School of Medicine.

From Outside-in Pull to Inside-out Push

What is driving Sodexo’s focus on innovation? Grace believed innovation was the imperative of contemporary society. “Nutritional Intervention” - the special requirement of medical group meal - demands a “case-specific” approach from the dieticians to facilitate the rehabilitation of patients with customized nutrition plans. This highly scientific discipline is called Inpatient Dining (IPD), which aims to strictly control patient diets. “However, medical group meals are also targeted at medical staff, who care more about experience. ” With the rise of middle-class in recent years, medical staffs are placing greater demands on the quality of life, too. That’s why Sodexo constantly introduces ‘novelties’ to staff canteens through innovations and inspirations. Only in this way can we improve their quality of life, and in turn, sense of happiness.” said Grace.

This whole course - from external inspirations, to the development of localized systems - requires close collaboration across the company on new experience and new features. Together with dedicated Digital and Innovation team, Grace’s segment has created amazing experience - those novel capabilities are developed and test by Digital and Innovation team in the first place, then deployed to related divisions for continuous adaptation.

The SEEFOOD smart cashier system at South Branch, Ren Ji Hospital of SJTU School of Medicine sheds some light on the digitalization progress of Sodexo China. Other examples include: Robot UU bringing novel interactions to the staff of Tong Ren Hospital, and WeChat-based menu, ordering, booking and real-time occupancy rate check at a global high-tech company in Beijing. All these have left a deep impression on Sodexo customers.

According to Cheney Guo, Digital and Innovation Director of Sodexo China, Sodexo SEEFOOD smart cashier system is the world’s first self-service cashier system enabled by AI-powered visual recognition. Unlike the traditional manual process, SEEFOOD features cutting-edge AI and deep learning capabilities to recognize the images captured by HD cameras, so the price and nutrition information of meals can be automatically displayed. The collected data can be used to generate personal nutrition report, or used for operational analytics, to help optimize procurement process, reduce wastes, improve efficiency and add values to additional services. More importantly, they also play an important role in assisting clients with resource optimization and efficiency boost, as well as creating an easy and comfortable dining experience for consumers. Presently, Sodexo SEEFOOD system has been widely adopted in the business network of Sodexo, and has attracted extensive media attention and coverage.

Cheney believed that “these trail-blazing programs not only improve the working and living experience of medical staff with digital technologies, but also drive the efficiency of individual organization through technology-enabled process changes. This will, in turn, enhance the overall efficiency and experience of the whole organization - Faster and better dining experience means higher efficiency and happier staff, and as a result, a more favorable healthcare environment.”

 “Technology for Change, Listening for Advancement, and Integration for Improvement” - the Digitally Integrated Facility Management Service of Sodexo, with consumers’ “quality of life”  in mind, is committed to supporting organization growth with advanced technologies.

August 21, 2019

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