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Small, durable, and lightweight, the Relay+ is easy to wear or carry.

New Communication Tool Speeds Meal Delivery at Mayo Clinic Saint Marys

Relay+ helps staffers stay in touch, while collecting data to make foodservice improvements.

Compass One Healthcare is implementing the cloud-based communication device Relay+ to streamline its hospital logistics. The healthcare support services company first piloted Relay+ through its foodservice team at Mayo Clinic's Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, MN - and the improvements were swift and significant.

Within 90 days of implementing Relay+ for dining solutions, Mayo Clinic Saint Marys was able to increase the timeliness of meal deliveries by 36%. It was all thanks to the ability of Relay+ to improve direct communication among foodservice staff and provide foodservice management with data insights that could be used to improve delivery route optimization, explains Brian Ricci, R.D., Director of Research and Development at Morrison Healthcare, one of two healthcare support service specialists that comprise Compass One Healthcare.

Relay+ is a screenless, palm-sized device that can be used for verbal group or one-on-one communications and passive data collection. (The data is collected on a central dashboard that can be accessed via computer, tablet, or smartphone). Team members each receive their own device, which can be worn or carried. It functions similarly to a walkie-talkie, with team members simply pressing a button to communicate with fellow staffers. Devices are picked up by staffers at the start of a shift and placed in a charging dock before they go home.

Relay+ devices typically connect over cellular networks, "so it's never connecting to the Wifi or or any on-premise infrastructure from an internet standpoint," Ricci explains. That eliminates dead zones that would put a staffer out of communication, and means that a hospital's IT staff doesn't have to get involved with bringing the devices on board.

The Relay+ pilot program at Mayo Clinic Saint Marys, which began in March 2022, focused on the hospital's nursing meal program where meal orders are taken at a patient's bedside and meals are delivered to individual nursing units at specified times. Wearing Relay+, staffers had the newfound ability to address patient requests in a timely manner. "Maybe a patient has a need but the staffer is strapped for time. They can reach out to their coworker and say, 'Hey, I ran out of ketchup packets on my cart. Who is closest and can bring one?'" Ricci says.

The capacity to passively collect data proved equally useful. Equipped with GPS tracking, Relay+ devices were able to track the location of staffers in real time to help Mayo Clinic Saint Marys foodservice managers see meal delivery trends, spot slowdowns, and take steps to make the process smoother. "By looking at specific meal periods, we could tell that one meal period was less timely than the others. For certain nursing units, a few were straggling behind," Ricci explains. "We were able to hone in on just those areas to find out what the specific issues were, so we could address them."

Bringing Relay+ into Mayo Clinic Saint Marys required training both foodservice managers and staffers. But because the device only consist of a few buttons, it was quick and easy for staff members to get the hang of. "We had videos that managers and associates can watch on how to charge them, how to properly sanitize them, and how to use the dashboard to access data," Ricci explains. "That ensured they were able to understand and use their devices properly."

Since the Mayo Clinic Saint Marys pilot, Compass One has launched Relay+ in more than 20 hospitals, with more expected over the next two years. In addition to the use of Relay+ for dining solutions, the technology is currently being piloted in Patient Transportation services and will son roll out in additional service lines across Compass One.

"We're using that live data feed, that situational awareness knowing where folks are, to better meet patient needs," explains Saima Khan, Senior Vice President of Compass One Healthcare Digital. In practice, that might look like directing a transporter to a certain location, or making sure a patient's meal is delivered to the right place and on time if they're being transported to a new location after surgery.

And from there, the sky is the limit in terms of how Relay+ might be used in hospital settings. Says Khan, "the opportunities are endless in terms of what we can do to connect the dots to continue to elevate the patient experience." 

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