La Grange – A new room service program at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital aims to transform the negative way patients view hospital food. The new “At Your Request” room service program, launched in August, allows patients to phone in their meal orders right from their hospital bed.
Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., patients can select their meals based on a varied menu found in their room. Available food items include a wide assortment of entrees – both meat-based and vegetarian – sandwiches, soups and desserts that cater to individual taste and cultural backgrounds with no strict limitations on when certain foods are offered.
“Patients can order a quesadilla for breakfast and cereal for dinner,” said clinical nutrition manager Debbie Regnier. “They can order an omelet with onions and green peppers instead of hearing, ‘Sorry, everyone gets a cheese omelet.’ It’s empowering.”
If the patient orders a food item that is excluded from his or her recommended diet, the hospital employee taking the order will inform the patient that particular food choice is not an option. Yet even those guidelines contain some flexibility.
“If a diabetic patient wants a piece of pie, he or she can have a piece of pie,” Regnier said. “But their main meal might contain a very small amount of carbohydrate because that day’s allotment was taken up by the pie. If someone on a cardiac diet wants fried chicken, we can recommend a healthier option.”
Once an order is placed, the ticket goes through three different scanners that inform staff the location of the meal tray as it passes the various food stations before coming to the patient. The meal ticket also provides nutritional information to the patients so they can see the amount of calories and carbohydrates contained in that meal.
“Our room service program puts the power back in the patient’s hands,” Regnier said. “This is important because so much control is taken away from patients the moment they are admitted to the hospital. They’re told what to eat, when to take a shower, what to wear, when to go to the bathroom and when to take their medicine. We want the patients to choose what they want to eat, just as if they were at home.”
Previously, dietary staff planned meals 24 hours before serving them. They limited dietary entrees to three items and meal schedules were rigid – procedures that didn’t take into account a patient’s unique dietary needs or the timing of tests. “At Your Request” has been implemented at two of Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital’s sister hospitals, Adventist Bolingbrook and Adventist GlenOaks Hospitals. Since its implementation at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital a year ago, patient satisfaction has increased and food waste has decreased; Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital officials hope to see similar results. “At Your Request” is a trademark program of Sodexo, the contract management services company that provides food services at these hospitals.
Mike Yore, director of dietary services, noted that the room service program has had a positive impact on hospital employees so far.
“Members of our team really feel like they are helping patients because they see them and talk to them more than they ever have before this program was implemented,” Yore said. “And that also has resulted in more opportunities for patient education. Patients aren’t just names – they are people entrusted to our care. It’s a responsibility that we don’t take lightly.”