Although environmental services (ES) departments typically don’t add much to the bottom line of a health care organization, they still play a major role in making sure it’s a healthy one.

According to a recent survey, most health care ES leaders have felt pressure to keep costs down and would rather find ways to become more efficient than increase their budgets. And because labor is the most costly line item, investments in staff retention and training tend to rank high with those looking to reduce or maintain their costs.

Bill Grimwood, an expert in cleaning-cost analysis, says ES training programs should include a combination of classroom teaching, workshop-style learning, online training and on-site training. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests another way to optimize the ES workforce is to print training materials in multiple languages to overcome communication barriers.

Lean initiatives also tend to pay off big for ES departments. Crestwood Medical Center, Huntsville, Ala., reduced its operating room turnover time from 14 minutes to nine after implementing a Lean program. Another initiative at UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco, used technology and communication to improve its ES department. The department worked with the hospital’s nurses to adopt a cleaning model called “Room Ready” that improved its room turnover time. It also implemented a software called ReadyList to give supervisors real-time visibility into the department’s cleaning progress.

Whether it’s a small change or a multideparment effort, any improvement in the ES department should link to the overall mission of the health care organization, and its budget should do the same. Todd Wilkening, CEO of FMadvantage LLC, says that environmental services leaders “must consider many things when preparing a departmental budget. However, the most critical element is alignment with the future vision of the health care organization.”


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