As consumerism becomes an increasingly crucial focal point for health care organizations in the post-reform era, hospital operational departments are discovering the importance of their roles in this evolution.

This becomes apparent when reading about the winners of the 2015 Environmental Services (ES) Department of the Year competition, conducted by the Association for the Healthcare Environment and media sponsor Health Facilities Management.

The ES departments at Northside Hospital in Atlanta and Seton Medical Center Williamson in Round Rock, Texas, both have fine-tuned their customer service performance and improved their HCAHPS scores through a number of approaches.

For a start, both organizations closely watch performance data and other metrics to make sure they stay on track. At Northside, for instance, managers check HCAHPS scores first thing in the morning.

Likewise, both organizations work to foster innovation within their ES departments. One strategy Seton Medical Center uses is to assemble room-cleaning teams by personality type, so that a technically focused staffer is teamed with a more socially outgoing staffer, giving patients the best of both worlds. More importantly, both hospitals also communicate their most successful innovations throughout their organizations so they can be duplicated.

This obviously goes hand-and-hand with robust training and employee development programs. At Seton Medical, for instance, staff go through a rigorous schedule of classroom training, on-the-job training and “daily lineups” to kick off each shift.

Finally, partnering with outside vendors and service companies has provided money-saving tools, resources and expertise to improve operations at a time when budgets are being closely monitored. At Northside, for example, patient-satisfaction rounding software from its service partner and bed-tracking software from an outside vendor have had positive effects on HCAHPS scores and performance metrics.

As non-revenue-producing hospital departments of all types seek to increase their value, they can learn much from the ES departments at Northside and Seton Medical. To see what lessons you could apply to your own organization, read more about this year's winners.