There’s an old adage that if a lie is repeated often enough, it starts to sound like the truth. I was reflecting on this point recently in relation to environmental services (ES) departments and whether they are — as so often referred to — “non-revenue-generating” staff.

In the strictest sense of the definition, I suppose there is some truth to this. After all, no patient, insurance carrier or other type of payer reimburses hospitals directly for the services that ES professionals provide.

In a larger sense, though, effective and efficient ES teams can and do make a significant financial contribution to the financial performance of their organizations. A well-run ES department helps to reduce the threat of health care-associated infections and HAI-related readmissions. Efficient ES departments reduce their costs of service. Well-managed ES teams that effectively engage patients have a major influence on raising specific areas of HCAHPS scores and boosting overall patient satisfaction. Elsewhere, ES teams that implement technology or improve processes cost-effectively will enable faster room turnaround times, thereby increasing patient throughput.

John DiGirolomo, senior vice president for facilities at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City and a life safety code surveyor for the Joint Commission, recently raised this point emphatically at Grainger’s annual conference for customers, which included more than 900 hospital engineers, supply chain directors and ES leaders.

DiGirolomo implored those attending a workshop on the greatest challenges facing those at acute and non-acute care facilities never to refer to themselves as “non-revenue-generating” staff. He went on to detail how much money a hospital would have to generate in additional patient care services for every dollar that those in ES, engineering or the supply chain save their institutions.

DiGirolomo’s impromptu commentary was prompted by a number of hospital professionals who began their comments by stating that their departments don’t generate revenue.

He raises a great point. ES teams have steadily taken on more expansive roles in hospitals in decontaminating the environment to minimize or eliminate infection risks. Also, by taking a proactive role in engaging patients while cleaning rooms, ES professionals can have a profound impact on how patients perceive their hospital experience. Likewise, every time an ES director improves staff efficiency to avoid adding additional full-time equivalent staff or implements technologies or processes to improve room turnaround times and thus patient throughput, the savings generated typically drop to the bottom line.

I’m sure there are more examples like these. The point is, it’s time to stop accepting or perpetuating the myth that well-managed ES teams don’t positively impact the bottom line.