The EVS department’s responsibilities continue to evolve by adopting new strategies and implementing best practices to reduce HAIs.
Photo courtesy of Tork, an Essity brand
Environmental services (EVS) professionals are one of the fundamental cornerstones of infection prevention and a key player for patient safety in health care facilities. Their role is critical to a health care facility’s success by securing a safe environment for hospital staff, patients and visitors.
As health care organizations better understand the role EVS departments play in maintaining a safe and clean facility, the department’s responsibilities continue to evolve by adopting new strategies and implementing best practices to reduce health care-associated infections (HAIs).
These behind-the-scenes heroes are responsible for securing operational excellence and are strong contributors to hygiene compliance in hospitals.
EVS departments have expanded their roles beyond cleaning to ensuring that operations run smoothly. This includes preventing infection spread, upholding patient satisfaction and, ultimately, ensuring patient well-being. To achieve this, EVS departments must wear many hats and quickly adapt to changing situations as they contribute to the following responsibilities:
Infection prevention. One of the reasons for the heightened attention on EVS is the increased understanding of the department’s role in infection prevention. As entire hospital workforces face the challenge of an unprecedented pandemic, EVS departments are called upon to ensure greater efforts are employed to combat the spread of disease and infection.
Exposure to HAIs can sprout illness and expedite the spread of disease among patients and health care staff. EVS technicians are the first line of defense in preventing an outbreak and helping to reduce the risk of these HAIs (should a spread occur) by ensuring a clean and safe health care environment is in place.
With this in mind, it is essential that EVS departments are prepared with proper training and effective tools to carry out their roles. For example, when looking to improve hand hygiene for hospital staff and patients, EVS professionals should consider touch-free dispensers as well as strategic dispenser placement. Research shows hand-hygiene dispensers have a significant impact on hygiene compliance rates — the key to success is making sure dispensers are placed strategically throughout the facility. Studies show that optimizing dispenser placement can increase usage by more than 50%.
EVS departments also must ensure the safety of patient waiting areas, another hotbed for potential outbreaks as patients, visitors and health care professionals interact with high-touch surfaces in these spaces.
Effective hand hygiene is the most important method in reducing HAIs; therefore, it is imperative EVS professionals help instill effective hand-hygiene practices to reduce pathogen transmission. A simple solution to promote proper hand hygiene is by using engaging signage to help remind patients and visitors. In fact, more than eight in 10 patients indicate the presence of hand-hygiene signage makes them feel more confident about a facility’s cleanliness and its quality of care.
By empowering EVS with the right tools, education and effective products, they can help mitigate the risk of infection spread and keep operations running efficiently.
Efficiency and productivity. Efficiency and productivity are two key elements in streamlining operations as health care facilities strive to protect patients and their staff when time is of the essence.
As the role of EVS moves to the forefront in leading this effort, hospitals are further emphasizing key performance indicators (KPIs) for their department to help benchmark productivity and efficiency. For EVS directors to optimize operations, they need to consider new technologies that will simultaneously save time and improve staff productivity.
New technologies can further streamline efficiencies to amplify productivity and ultimately empower EVS to fulfil and exceed their objectives. Order and workflow are critical to fostering productivity within the hospital environment, and the advent of new technologies can improve processes.
For example, some hand towel systems can hold up to 2,100 towels — cutting refill time in half — so staff can dedicate time to cleaning critical areas instead of constantly checking and refilling hand towel dispensers. Some vendors offer a family of dispenser and recessed cabinet adaptors, so the same refill can be used in the entire facility. This allows for greater flexibility for servicing these high-traffic environments without fear of continuity disruption or empty hand towel dispensers.
Patient satisfaction. Patient satisfaction is another critical performance indicator for hospital operations where EVS can greatly contribute. Similar to productivity, achieving high scores in patient satisfaction can be affected by EVS departments having the proper training and supplies they need to perform their jobs.
Often, the level of visible cleanliness in a health care facility renders a patient’s first impression of the environment. However, EVS technicians can impact patient satisfaction in other ways. A gap in their operations can significantly influence a patient’s impression of a hospital, impacting the overall patient experience.
Based on their role within the health care environment, EVS technicians have some of the most consistent and frequent interactions with patients across the facility, from patient waiting areas to surgery rooms.
When EVS technicians are overwhelmed, it can be difficult for them to engage with patients in a meaningful and welcoming way, when the priority is “getting the job done” (i.e., achieving cleanliness) within a limited amount of time.
With the right productivity tools, EVS departments can establish an environment that is both clean and welcoming so health care organizations can deliver an optimal patient experience.
EVS technicians also can impact patient satisfaction through continuity of service. Data tools allow them to monitor and analyze real-time usage data for hygiene products: bath tissue, paper towels, soap and sanitizer. This visibility allows EVS technicians to monitor dispensers and check refill levels remotely so they can service the health care facility more efficiently and effectively at all times.
Data-driven cleaning empowers EVS departments with the insights they need to ensure they spend more time cleaning critical areas — ultimately optimizing their workflows. Technologies like this also equip them with insights and data to improve long-term planning that helps organizations meet their goals.
Hospital staff are increasingly seeing the significant contributions EVS departments make in delivering excellent patient care, and now health care leaders are taking steps to ensure EVS teams can exceed their potential and purpose.
With the right strategy and phased approach, EVS departments can establish a strong foundation as part of the backbone of the hospital. But enacting meaningful change requires a series of steps such as the following:
Identify needs. EVS directors can accelerate operational excellence by identifying the needs of their facility and determining how their department can contribute.
Some departments may call on EVS to deliver products ensuring proper hand hygiene and time-saving methods for maintaining a healthy environment. Others may prioritize workflow improvements to focus on staff productivity. It’s important to establish these priorities from the onset and ensure this hierarchy is communicated.
Optimizing efficiencies starts with understanding where the needs are within the facility and where the technicians need to focus. It is a marathon, not a sprint; so not every need can be fulfilled all at once, but by prioritizing, managers and directors can create a phased approach for long-term impacts.
Create a plan. Developing a plan will allow the department to safely and effectively roll out any new products, technologies or protocols, using their day-to-day tasks to drive operational excellence. By identifying priorities, such as hygiene and safety needs, the team can create a plan addressing need-to-have resolutions before moving onto less essential aspects of operations. Once the priorities are determined, creating a realistic timeline for implementation will enable the team to meet these operational goals.
EVS directors, managers and technicians are encouraged to share these plans with other departments. It’s important that health care organizations stay interconnected, and cross-department collaboration helps ensure operations run effectively. Securing input from primary care professionals and other facility departments will ensure other key stakeholders provide their perspective on the proposed plan — in turn increasing the program’s potential success once implemented.
Implement the plan. Once the EVS management team has developed a plan on how to address the needs of its department, it is time to put them it into practice. During implementation, it is critical to keep all technicians on the same page with the new procedures, protocols and products that will be introduced. Educational sessions and trainings are useful methods in ensuring the entire team is up to speed and aligned with the department’s planned approach, as repetition is key to effective communication and fostering understanding among employees.
Monitor and maintain. Once the team has implemented strategies to help EVS meet their goals, it is essential to monitor and maintain the newly introduced tactics. For some, monitoring might include identifying KPIs and performance metrics — such as square footage covered, hours worked and patient satisfaction — which are effective ways to ensure EVS technicians are on track for operational excellence. Monitoring against metrics gives their department tangible operational goals to measure implementation effectiveness.
It is important for EVS departments to monitor their success and not lose momentum. Team meetings, individual check-ins and ongoing trainings are needed to ensure long-term success. Also, having a continuous dialogue with EVS technicians is recommended; it leads the department to continuous improvement, as it allows it to iterate and ideate on new tactics to secure the long-term plans and goals for operational efficiency within the organization.
As the role of EVS grows, health care facility staff are beginning to understand the vital position they play in ensuring operations run smoothly throughout the organization.
However, operational excellence cannot be achieved without the support of the rest of the facility. It takes a coordinated effort across the health care organization to support EVS staff members and ensure they are equipped with the tools and products they need to achieve and exceed their goals.
With the right tools, a plan and strategic solutions in place, EVS can empower its operations and amplify operational excellence throughout the facility.
Deborah Chung is regional marketing manager for Essity Professional Hygiene, North America. She can be reached at