Artistic Background

Hospital's Diet Data Duties Get Trimmed 20 Hours a Week with AutoMate BPA Server

Saddleback Memorial Medical Center Saddleback Memorial Medical Center
Jay Patel, Applications Specialist/Information Services


For any hospital, feeding hundreds of patients three times a day involves substantial paperwork. At California's Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, completing these tasks consumed roughly 20 hours per week until 2007. That year, the facility turned to Network Automation's AutoMate BPA Server, a drag-and-drop client/server business process automation platform that eliminates many repetitive manual IT tasks without the need for costly custom scripting. With AutoMate, Saddleback has reclaimed the time previously spent monitoring the daily flow and operation of its nutrition care and foodservice production facilities. Now other departments are going on the AutoMate 'diet' to trim unnecessary manual processes from their daily workload.

The Challenge

Based in Laguna Hills with a satellite facility in San Clemente, Saddleback Memorial has a total of 325 beds on its two campuses. The food and nutrition department uses Computrition's Hospitality Suite to manage foodservice operations and nutrition care for patients, guests and staff. Before adding AutoMate to the IT menu, generating the production pull sheets, tallies and patient-specific dietary documentation required a fair amount of navigation through prompt screens and reporting functions.

For each meal, the diet technician had to launch Computrition's Smart Substitutions tool to ensure that each patient's menu complied with his or her respective dietary restrictions and/or allergies, as well as allow the system to make any necessary corrections. Next, the tech generated a conflict report to equip dietitians with information on any necessary menu modifications. Ultimately, this modified information was transferred to printed menu counts and tray tickets for kitchens on both campuses. Tube-feeding and nourishment labels were also printed periodically throughout the day.

Performing these activities - required for proper operation of food production and dietary patient management - took approximately three hours of daily oversight. The staff knew that further automation could expedite their work by triggering and executing the necessary processes electronically, but building a custom automation routine was an expensive proposition.

"Having a programmer automate our reporting processes would have cost tens of thousands of dollars in writing code," said Jay Patel, Applications Specialist/Information Services at Saddleback. "We needed to find another way."

The Solution

Patel learned about Network Automation's drag-and-drop business process automation products through the IT grapevine and downloaded a desktop version of the company's AutoMate program in early 2007. Within a few hours, he had successfully used the software to automate several reports simply by listing the necessary keystrokes in the proper sequence in the program's task building window and scheduling each report to self-start at the appropriate time. The first two reports were printing by the end of the first day, with AutoMate simulating user input based on Patel's work.

Then he turned his attention to automating the rest of the menu-related documentation, using a combination of keystrokes and pre-programmed AutoMate wizards for actions such as accessing the network drive, sending emails, saving log files to the Windows Notepad, and alerting Windows Messenger (for example) to warn users that they have 10 minutes to log out of Computrition's patient records before Smart Substitutions initiates. He also configured the reports to print on four different printers between the two campuses, including machines in both cafeterias, the Laguna Hills nutrition department and the San Clemente nursing unit.

When the AutoMate trial version expired during this process, Saddleback purchased AutoMate BPA Server to have access to the more sophisticated task building, workflow and error handling capabilities found in the client/server edition. The hospital also gained features like global change functionality and a management console that would allow centralized control of automation projects implemented at Saddleback's two campuses, as well as three sister facilities also owned by MemorialCare, a leading not-for-profit health system.

Installing AutoMate BPA Server on a virtual server yielded additional advantages. It not only freed the PC in the diet office for use for other tasks, but also increased security by removing patient information from the desktop where it might be seen by unauthorized personnel. By mid-2007, all processes were running as planned.

The Benefits

Today, AutoMate BPA Server is configured to automatically trigger the production of Saddleback's breakfast reports at 5 am so that the necessary documentation is sitting on the cafeteria printer in each campus when the cook walks in the door in the morning. Lunch and dinner reports are launched at 10:30 am and 4:30 pm, respectively, with the next day's breakfast orders generated at 7:15 pm - all without a single manual keystroke.

With AutoMate taking most routine menu data generation off the staff's plate, the Nutrition Care Department has gained important efficiencies as well as more time to work on providing and enhancing direct dietary services. Required menu tallies and meal-related labels always appear on the appropriate printer on schedule, with no delays caused by inevitable work interruptions. Report setup and execution, standard diet office tasks, and production information now initiate and run automatically - all without the expense of writing and maintaining custom scripts.

Based on these successes, other departments in Saddleback Memorial and its sister MemorialCare facilities are now cooking up their own AutoMate projects to slim their daily workloads. One team plans to use AutoMate to automatically FTP backup Oracle files to an off-site server; another, to enable hands-off SQL queries. With these and other initiatives in the pipeline, Saddleback and MemorialCare stand to shed pounds of additional time-consuming responsibilities, without writing a single line of additional code. Putting information systems duties on a diet has never been easier.