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Carts Offer Compromise Solution

Not every hospital can afford to do a comprehensive program turnaround and go straight to room service from a traditional trayline. At Somerset (NJ) Medical Center, they've found a compromise solution that provides some of the benefits of room service without all the costs.

The hospital's dining department purchased two temp-controlled mobile carts this past summer. These troll through the hallways of the units at lunch- and dinnertime, carrying hot and cold meal components, which are assembled just outside patient rooms.

The advantage is that the patients, who still preorder meals in the traditional way, can change their orders at mealtime. It also accommodates dietary changes and recent admissions quickly.

“We tabulate how much of each item was ordered but then have enough for some extras to accommodate patients who change their orders,” says Nutrition Services Director George Jonkoski.

The carts debuted in the orthopedic unit, where patients are often new, and will expand to three other units “once the bugs are worked out,” says Jonkoski, who sees the initiative as a bridge to full fledged room service at some point.

Meanwhile, patient satisfaction is up not just in the affected units but hospital-wide, since “the trayline is now shorter and the food doesn't sit around so long,” Jonkoski says.

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