It sounds like such a simple concept: the physician picks up the chart, writes the diet order and it is transmitted via a multitude of ways to the Food Service Department. With Electronic Health Records, this process takes on a host of very different considerations. Many times, Diet Orders are included in an “Order Set” (such as a “Cardiac Rehab” set which is “known” to be a “Low Fat, 4 gram Sodium Diet”), a protocol (defined by the research design underway) or as part of Computerized Physician/Provider Order Entry (CPOE)—where a provider enters all of the orders appropriate for the patient.
Many RDs who help create these orders (as part of the EHR Implementation Team) are challenged with the best way to name them. Work is underway now at ADA to create the appropriate design for naming and using diet orders. Why do we need this? Several reasons—for outcomes reporting, for consistency in order delivering and tray delivery, for best practices, communication (physicians wants one diet, but inadvertently orders another) and more.
You may ask—why not just have a “free text” field where providers can enter anything they want?! One of the concepts of HITECH Meaningful Use and Standards Rules are to “Discourage Free Text.” If you have ever seen the results of what can happen with free text—this makes sense. For example—if a provider is ordering 1500 KCAL 2 GM Sodium, everyone seems to have his or her own style—
- 1500 Kcal 2 Gram Sodium
- 1500 calorie 2 Gm Sodium
- 1500 KCAL 2000 mg NA
- 1500 kilocalorie 2 G NA
- 1500 Kcal 2000 mg Sodium
- 1500 Kc 2 g sodum (misspelled)
….I think you get my point. A software program (or computer) does not know these all mean the same, so a list such as this appears as a conglomeration of a list of different orders. On the other hand, if a provider has a list to choose from and “select” via a radio button or a drop-down menu, all of the above orders would appear the same. Such the reason for ONC/CMS discouraging free text or “text box” except where indicated.