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This months Spotlight shines on the brand new RTS unit from Burlodge, which was first introduced to the marketplace in August 2004.

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Industry Trends
A number of overall trends and changes occurring in health care, are significantly impacting the means by which food services are provided in health care facilities throughout Canada. One of the most significant influences is health care reform and restructuring. Hospital group collaborations, rationalization initiatives and the move in certain jurisdictions to regional mergers are all changing the face of health care provision. As a result of these mergers and affiliations, C.E.O.'s are looking for means to increase efficiency and to reduce duplication of effort between facilities within their control. The provision of food services is an area where significant savings can be achieved through a shared approach.

As well, there are demands to make our health care system more "customer or patient focused". For food services, this means being able to deliver high quality, appealing meals at correct service temperatures and at flexible service times. Meeting these needs with conventional approaches is difficult.

Combined with these changes there is increased pressure today to "do more with less". Regional C.E.O.'s are being told that they must continue to provide the best services despite shrinking operational and capital budgets. A shared food service system offers a solution to this dilemma but there are also many ways that the independent operator can make significant strides to find savings and at times, in doing so, erode the business case for a shared or regional food system model.

Another trend that is causing food service departments to look for new approaches is the changing nature of patient care. The shift to increased out-patient services and shorter average lengths of stay, translates into a need for flexible meal service styles, locations and timing.

Conventional insulated hot meal trays, which must be assembled and served within fixed time frames, may no longer meet the dietary needs. Patients today often recover at much faster rates and as a result change diet types of locations more rapidly. Maintaining quality and proper service temperatures of meals is often difficult when conventional approaches are used in outpatient areas where clients may require different types of meals or nourishment at irregular times.

A major area driving changes in food services systems is the pace of technological innovation. Significant improvements have been made in the meal delivery and retherm systems available today. As well, these systems are now available in different service formats. Furthermore, the need for increased food safety is on the rise. With the advent of SARS and increased expectations of HACCP by local health inspectors, operators are looking at newer technological advancements for answers.

Many health care facilities facing the need to renovate aging kitchens - at significant cost, are questioning investing in high cost on-site cook-chill and/or freeze production systems. There are multiple sources of pre-prepared foods available through most commercial food purveyors. These enable health care providers to utilize outsourcing of food products and invest only in new cold meal delivery and retherm systems resulting in labour cost savings and enhanced service quality.

Recommended Reading:
>> Food Outsourcing
>> Consumerism
>> Food Safety
>> Independant vs. Shared Food Services