Health facilities managers recognize there is much to learn about operational excellence from other industries. 

The biggest flaw seen by Michael A. Hatton, CHFM, FASHE, vice president at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, is a tendency to be unfocused. “We try to do too many things and don’t stick with a task,” he says. “We’re somewhat neurotic and sporadic in our focus on continual improvement. [That’s in contrast to] the well-known processes refined and fine-tuned by the Japanese to drive quality, reduce defects and increase reliability in manufacturing processes, specifically in automobiles.” 

Noting “we can learn a lot from other industries,” Kara Brooks, LEED AP BD+C, sustainability program manager at the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), believes that identifying unexplored ways to save energy is one such lesson. 

An example came when ASHE was approached by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program manager, who asked whether the association was interested in developing an energy treasure hunt. ASHE agreed, using the concept and further developing the program to be specific to health care. 

“Energy treasure hunts started in the industrial sector. These are two-day events where participants identify energy-saving opportunities, calculate savings and present their findings to senior leadership,” she says. “This was one instance of utilizing lessons from another field, seeing what they were doing and bringing the concept into health care.” 

After being included in a number of meetings focused on safety, Ryan W. Ollie, PE, CEM, manager of facility operations at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., is convinced that, when it comes to health care facilities’ safety measures, the industry that should be studied is the commercial aviation field. 

Commercial aviation has mastered what Ollie terms “really complex systems” that involve a number of checks, including quality control. Despite the millions of flights worldwide every year, commercial aviation experiences very few failures, injuries and deaths, he points out. “In both health care and aviation, failure is not an option, so there is much we can learn from studying the aviation industry.”