One of the many benefits of American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) membership is the network of personal connections we make. The ability to bounce ideas off one another, discuss issues and respectfully challenge each other are benefits that cannot be overstated. Outside of formal programming at conferences or educational offerings, I enjoy sitting down with members to compare notes on current issues and get perspectives from all over North America. Chances are that if you are facing a challenge, you are not alone.

During one such informal discussion recently with other ASHE leaders, we addressed the challenging topic of advancing facilities infrastructure projects when other priorities seem to elbow their way to the top of the list. Particularly, we commented on the success that our information technology (IT) teams have in getting projects approved by using terms like “security vulnerability,” “patient access” or “discontinuation of support.” The discussion got me thinking: What strategies successfully communicated in IT projects can be applied to our unglamorous facilities projects?

From my perspective, key elements include patient care risk, financial impact, corporate reputation and legal ramifications. What is interesting is that these same dynamics could apply to a roof replacement project or the addition of an emergency generator. Another significant factor seems to be the perception of trustworthiness. While the impacts of a data breach, for example, are immeasurable, my experience has been that certain IT projects seemingly are not scrutinized the way our infrastructure projects and deferred maintenance activities are. However, the need to stop surgery cases due to a known infrastructure deficiency should cause similar levels of stress to decision-makers.

To be successful in advocating for our operational and capital dollars, the message needs to be honest, impactful and supported by data. It should acknowledge the risks posed by deferment and the impacts that could result. We should not have to wait for a problem. As a good friend and ASHE member put it to me recently, “If water drips into your operating rooms, you will get the money to fix it.”