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AI helps take care of aged care residents

Kale Temple

The aged care sector, a $23.6 billion industry in Australia1, is currently facing the growing risk of severe malnutrition amongst its elderly residents.

A 2021 study by the Royal Commission of Aged Care Quality & Safety says the risk of malnutrition is at a staggering 68%2. This issue has a significant impact on the wellbeing of the elderly, including a higher risk of illness, slower recovery time and decline in overall health3,4.

Families sending their loved ones to aged care facilities are faced with the devastation of these risks, despite paying up to $21,000 per year5. On top of this, if residents are served meals that do not meet their tracked preferences, this can lead to large quantities of food wastage. Unfortunately, tracking food consumption to uphold quality standards at this scale has historically been widely complex and difficult to achieve. 

James Triggs, Director, Deloitte Consulting Data and AI, says, “We all know someone living in aged care and it really matters to know they are getting a good quality of life. We were so excited to help solve this food tracking problem and to know the real improvements this will make for those living in aged care.”

So how do we tackle this problem?

Deloitte and Compass Group Australia, the global food and support services company, have joined forces to leverage the power of AI to develop a solution. Together they have created MealVision, “A first of its kind, cloud-based Computer Vision offering which monitors the food consumption of aged care residents. It uses data to alert staff of the residents who are at a risk of malnutrition, thereby highlighting issues before they progress,” says Ansh Bordia, Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting Data and AI.

How does MealVision work?

The MealVision Scanning Unit (Figure 1) is responsible for gathering data and is equipped with features including a high-resolution camera, radio frequency identification, and, most importantly, the LiDAR scanner for measuring the food. The data is then fed to the MealVision AI Platform hosted on the AWS Cloud, to track consumption. Deloitte developed the MealVision AI Platform and worked closely with AerVision who developed the hardware for the MealVision Scanning unit.

Figure 1

Let’s dive deeper to understand how these features perform together

First, the unit detects which resident the plate belongs to using the RFID tag attached to the plate. The unit’s camera then scans the plate to identify the food and calculate its volumes. These figures are then sent to the cloud-based AI model for prediction. Once the resident returns the plate after eating, the same procedure is repeated. Lastly, the data is compared and stored in a Data Mart, which is connected to a Tableau dashboard displaying the results. 

The Tableau dashboard is analysed by Compass Group staff in real-time to monitor the consumption intake of the residents (Figure 2). They track the total percentage consumed and food categories to discover the most popular menu items, patterns in the residents’ behaviours and identify which residents require adjustments in their meals.

Figure 2

Key benefits

The MealVision solution delivers many benefits which successfully improve the quality of life for the elderly. These benefits include:

1. Mitigating the risk of malnutrition

The solution flags food consumption-related warnings, so that Compass Group staff can immediately action the appropriate steps to mitigate risk. These may include enhanced supervision and encouragement at mealtimes, serving dishes that are most popular, and customised meal plans. This solution changes the game for aged care providers, offering an easier way to maintain food consumption standards.

2. Assuring families that their loved ones are maintaining a nutritious diet

This solution assures families with the knowledge that their loved ones are well taken care of and are receiving the sustenance necessary to live an enjoyable life. The Tableau dashboard generates reports, backed by data points, to indicate how their family members are consuming food and what their food intake preferencesare.

3. Reducing food wastage

Through analysis of food consumption data, Compass Group staff are able to design more favourable meal plans, allowing them to significantly reduce food waste. Culinary teams can modify their dishes based on the popularity of food items to design higher demand menus – decreasing the amount of wastage.

These benefits have reinforced Compass Group’s position as a market leader in aged care.

The impact and the way forward

MealVision is currently being used in over a dozen aged care serveries, catering to hundreds of residents. James says, “This solution is revolutionising aged care. It is tackling the issue of malnutrition headfirst, drastically improving the lives and health of the elderly, while also bringing peace of mind to their families. MealVision has not only transformed lives, but has created a first of its kind offering in the aged care market for Compass Group.”

This is just the start – as its impact expands, the future of MealVision in aged care looks bright and promising!


More about the authors :

James Triggs - Director, Consulting Strategy & AI

Ansh Bordia - Senior Consultant, Consulting Strategy & AI

Priyanka Shahani - Senior Consultant, Consulting Strategy & AI

Nik Babaii Rizvandi - Specialist Director, Consulting Strategy & AI