The American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) wrapped its 58th annual conference last week with its longstanding Just Ask ASHE forum. The six-person panel ended the four-day conference with a discussion on health care sustainability and decarbonization.

The panel delved into the global shifts concerning environmental sustainability and how that impacts health care. It also fielded questions from the audience before capping ASHE’s successful return to in-person conferences since the beginning of the pandemic.

More than 2,500 attendees gathered in Nashville for the 2021 ASHE Annual Conference Aug. 8-11 to network with peers, attend sessions and learn about new solutions in the field.

The week’s event kicked off with a keynote session from Adam Steltnzer, leader and chief engineering of NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission. Steltzner led a talented team at the Jet Propulsion Lab to successfully land the rover “Perseverance” on the red planet Feb. 18, 2021. Steltnzer dissected key lessons from the mission that could benefit leaders across industries.

He shared four principles that any leader or team member can use to help better their organization.

  1. Sort fact from opinion to the find the right balance of perspective.
  2. Humans succeed in teams and excellence should always be the pursuit.
  3. Find something to love in everyone you work with to build collaboration.
  4. Talk less and listen more to help each team member bring the fullness of their contribution.

The opening address was followed by concurrent sessions that discussed timely topics such as pandemic recovery, as well as ever-evolving issues like code compliance and managing indoor air quality.

Later in the day, Jonathan Flannery, MHSA, CHFM, FASHE, FACHE, senior associate director of advocacy, ASHE, was joined by Mark Mochel, senior vice president, Facility Health Inc., and Matt Stiene, senior vice president of construction and facility services, Novant Health.

The three led an illustrated general session focused on infrastructure renewal. Using large buckets labeled with different types of maintenance — from planned replacement to unplanned replacement — they centered the discussion around the effects of deferred maintenance in health care facilities.

Noting that the hospital “age of plant” has continued a steady increase over the last two decades and compounded by decreased budgets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Flannery predicted that, “We are looking at significant decreases in margin as the year moves forward.”

The panel also noted that deferred maintenance is not a one-time project, and that budgets should be thoughtfully dispersed across the different maintenance buckets and according to a facility’s particular needs. They recommended a few questions facilities leaders can ask to help determine how to plan their budgets:

  1. How much should be invested to properly maintain the facility?
  2. Where should investments be made to maximize performance?
  3. What is the best way to steward funds?

Day 2’s general session featured another panel of experts. The session, Inside Secrets: A Look at Compliance from a Surveyor Perspective, was led by ASHE Deputy Executive Director Chad Beebe, AIA, CHFM, CFPS, CBO, FASHE, and featured facility managers and accreditation surveyors.

The group discussed resources, tips and best practices facilities managers can pull from to ensure their organizations stay ready for the next accreditation survey. Tim Adams, Indiana University Health’s facility manager, program director in charge of system environment of care and life safety, advised attendees to see beyond facilities management and engineering and to think of patient care as part of their “zone.”

“Managing accreditation is about high reliability rather than cramming for an exam,” Adams says. “It’s about working every day to care for patients. High reliability is the essence of what we do, and accreditation is snapshot of how you’re doing. You can have a survey with very few findings but still have situations where patients are at risk and vice versa. Accreditation is a tool that helps us with high reliability but it should not be the end result to get that piece of paper. It really should be about what we do every day.”

ASHE is keeping the discussion going with the 2021 ASHE Annual Virtual Conference.

The online conference will be held September 15-17 and is available to attendees of the in-person conference as well as those who could not attend in person. The virtual conference will feature exclusive content and an opportunity to earn up to 20 continuing education credits.