Effective Oct. 17, UAB Hospital changed the way patients receive their food during their stay. In an effort to create a better patient experience, pre-prepared and re-heated foods are out, freshly cooked and prepared to order-when-ready meals are on the menu. 

UAB Hospital patients are in for a treat. In an effort to create a better patient experience, the hospital has implemented freshly cooked and prepared to order meals.
"Shifting to this hotel-style room service represents a major change in the process for us," says Charlotte Beeker, director of food, nutrition and guest services. "Previously, we were a cook and chill service, where food was cooked, flash chilled and then re-heated as needed. Now, all meals will be cooked to order."

The change will be for all patients - even intensive-care unit patients - and each patient will have a variety of choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If patients are restricted to a liquid diet, they or their representatives can choose the flavor of broth.

Every patient will have a menu in their room similar to a typical restaurant menu. The patient, family member or nurse, can call 4-MEAL (4-6325) and place their order with an operator between the hours of 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The kitchen will cook the meal made-to-order and it will be delivered within 45 minutes.

"We think this will allow for a better patient experience," Beeker says. "Patients order what they want to eat when they want to eat it rather than have a food tray appear in their room on our schedule." 

The hotel-style room service does not add any additional costs to the patient's stay.
Beeker says there will be advantages for the patient and the hospital now that the patient is in control on when they receive their food.

"If a patient has just come back to the room from a procedure, they may not want a large meal, but they might be able to eat a warm bowl of soup," she says. "Or if they finished therapy at 4:30 p.m., they might want to wait until 6:30 p.m. to eat dinner. It should lead to less wasted food and improve our patient-centered experience."

The shift to the hotel-style room service plan has been in the planning stage for the past two years.

More culinary staff with restaurant experience have been hired to prepare the meals.

"We have two certified executive chefs and several trained cooks and senior cooks," Beeker says. "The menu is expanded from what we've had before, with new items and new recipes. It's all part of giving the patient more options and, ultimately, a better experience."

Breakfast options include low-cholesterol scrambled eggs, buttermilk pancakes, French toast and omelettes. Bakery items including muffins, biscuits and bagels also are available as are a variety of fruits, yogurts, cereals and side items, including bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Lunch and dinner options include soups and salads, entrée salads, deli and grilled sandwiches and  numerous sides and desserts, including sugar free offerings. Entrees include golden crusted chicken breast, lemon baked tilapia and homestyle beef pot roast and gravy among other choices.

The menu also is marked to note heart-healthy menu items and the number of carbohydrates in certain offerings. The system also is set up so patients or their family members won't order something inappropriate if the patient is on a restricted diet.

"We are the largest hospital in the country that is going to hotel-style room service across the board for all patients that we know of," Beeker says. "We hope to expand these services to Highlands soon as well. Other hospitals that have done this are smaller or only do it for certain patient groups, such as new moms. We hope this will make our patients and their families more comfortable and satisfied during their stay."