Plagued by a bad reputation, hospital food is getting revamped into healthcare cuisine at REX Healthcare, Raleigh, NC. Affiliated with the University of North Carolina Healthcare System, REX Healthcare’s food service operation aims to push the limits of what hospital food can be.

“People don’t expect much from hospital food, and we’re saying it doesn’t have to be ‘hospital food,’ ” said Ryan Conklin, REX Healthcare’s executive chef. “Let’s look at it as healthcare cuisine and try to step out of the box in what’s presented to patients.”

Mr. Conklin makes as much of the hospital’s food from scratch as possible. The kitchen offers patients mini desserts like chocolate mousse pies and cannoli. Having interesting, delicious food creates a food buzz in the hospital, he said, which drives up patient satisfaction scores.

Artisan breads, decadent desserts and gourmet hamburger buns — this is the future of hospital food, according to Mr. Conklin. “Years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a chef in a hospital kitchen, but hospitals are starting to see they need to hire chefs and bakers,” he said. “It makes a difference in your menus and patient satisfaction.”