OPERATIONS & CLINICAL
OR CARE PROCESSES
Contributed by NHG
Identifying food textures for dysphagia patients
How might we test the texture of food and / or consistency of fluid served to patients, with a more efficient and accurate method or product?
Patients with dysphagia or swallowing impairment are frequently recommended by speech therapists to modify their food textures or fluid consistencies. However, it can be challenging to know if modified foods and fluids have been prepared accurately. If not prepared properly, the foods or fluids can increase the risk of aspiration and choking for paediatric and adult patients with dysphagia.
At present, we rely on a combination of expertise and experience to visually identify textures or consistencies. There are descriptive guidelines, complemented with test methods in the International Dysphagia Diet Standard Initiative (IDDSI) framework (more information below). The test methods used by trained food service staff and healthcare workers include: syringe flow test, fork drip test, fork pressure test, and spoon tilt test.
Checks on food texture and fluid consistency are conducted on a daily basis, especially during or after food preparation, and prior to consumption.
However, there are various shortcomings in use of visual identification and IDDSI test methods, due to the subjective and varied nature of foods and fluids. Also, the current tests take excessive time and resources.
The solution should objectively, efficiently and reliably identify the level of food textures or fluid consistencies (according to current IDDSI standards). It should also have features such as temperature measurement and an analytical ability to assess and inform on the direction of error (size, density, hardness / softness or moisture level, etc.).