4 Steps to Optimize Kitchens in Healthcare Facilities
Since 1996, Filta has been providing fryer management services to commercial kitchens of all kinds, including those in hospitals, healthcare facilities, and assisted living homes. Therefore, we thought that it would be interesting to explore the different steps healthcare facilities can take to optimize their kitchen spaces in terms of safety, nutrition, and creating an overall positive dining experience.
There is justifiably close scrutiny on the safety and general wellbeing in hospitals, places that offer assisted living, and other healthcare facilities, but the kitchen is not typically the first area where inspections are focused. However, for the health and safety of not only the patients or residents, but of the employees working day in and day out in healthcare kitchens, reviewing ways to optimize where food is prepared and served is certainly an exercise well worth the time.
Tailored Menus + Allergen-Safe Areas
By very definition, a patient in a hospital or an assisted living facility may have health conditions that require specialized menus.
Individuals with high blood pressure are traditionally put on a low sodium diet, and people with high cholesterol are advised to avoid certain types of foods, such those containing animal fats. Conditions like diabetes require monitoring sugar levels, and certain foods containing phosphorus or potassium can impact renal health. And these are just the “common,” major diseases mostly familiar to the general public.
A host of other unique menu needs impact what a person eats, especially in a healthcare environment. Add in food allergies – most commonly tree nut, dairy, shellfish, and gluten – and you have a really specific set of requirements that can have severe adverse effects if procedures are not in place and followed strictly.
In healthcare settings, almost more than anywhere, spaces, places, and systems for tailoring menus to dietary restrictions, as well as creating allergen-safe workspaces and processes are key to making kitchens run smoothly.
Choose Kitchen Fixtures Wisely
Kitchen fixtures are important in any commercial kitchen, but in a healthcare setting they’re paramount. From prep and work surfaces to storage, shelving, restocking, and even sinks and refrigeration, the physical features of a healthcare kitchen need careful consideration for everyone’s health.
In choosing surfaces, planners often choose fixtures that support strict hygiene yet are convenient and easy to use. Cutting and prep surfaces that touch meat should never be used for vegetables and vice versa. Shelving and restocking areas should easily accommodate a first-in-first-out rotation without crowding, as should freezer and refrigerator spaces. Spills, which are inevitable in a kitchen, should be easily and quickly identified with transparent workspaces and no nooks and crannies where debris can get caught unnoticed.
Even if the fixtures that meet these requirements may be more costly, in the long run healthcare kitchens will save money in lost time, headaches, and unintended work stoppage for accidents.
Create Positivity with Light and Overall Healthy Design Elements
A community that is positive will exude positivity.
Smart designs for healthcare kitchens (and other types of commercial venues) employ a community-focused, all-inclusive, warm design as opposed to dull paint and fluorescent, harsh lighting. Wellness and hope are values that can be communicated non-verbally by the atmosphere and design, including kitchens and dining areas, as well as other common areas in healthcare settings.
Consult Professionals for Niche Services
Food preparation in commercial kitchens is a delicate balance of unique touches by individual, expert chefs and knowing when to bring in outside professionals for specialty services. Heavy cleaning, pest control, electrical, and plumbing are prime examples where consulting an outside professional is probably a good idea.
Another often overlooked area is cooking oil and grease management and control. Most kitchens have cooking oil fryers, and they are messy. No one really likes to clean them, but not doing that task is a recipe for disaster – and often cause a black mark from an inspector.
The hot, messy, often unsafe job of cleaning fryers can be alleviated by bringing in a professional like Filta, which can remove the task of fryer cleaning in-house at healthcare facilities. The on-the-spot removal of oil eliminates the need of a nasty, dangerous oil storage bin. Additionally, the micro-filtration of the still-useful oil extends the life of this increasingly expensive and hard-to-come-by resource often more than doubling the life of the oil.
Optimizing all the facets of a healthcare kitchen is a delicate balance with many factors coming into play. Factoring unique menus and dietary requirements, proper fixtures to get the job done, cultivating a positive attitude, and bringing in professionals at the proper time can all lead to a better experience for kitchen workers as well as those enjoying the food.
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