With each new year comes new challenges, new technologies and new surprises. We are all familiar with the new challenges in environmental services (ES) around cost reductions and improved quality. New regulations through the Affordable Care Act are putting pressure on all hospitals to perform more efficiently. Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems and the value-based purchasing system are forcing ES leaders to improve patient satisfaction scores or face reduced reimbursement. AHE will continue to address these challenges and advocate for environmental services in 2013.

Technology continues to impress even the most sophisticated in our field. When I entered the field 20 years ago, we were using cotton mops and rags sprayed with some type of disinfectant. Visual observation was our only method of inspecting rooms for cleanliness. Many of us didn't even have computers on our desks. We outlined our staffing and cleaning schedules on paper. Room discharges were communicated verbally or through a sheet of paper at a nursing station. Digital pagers and land-based telephone lines were our only way to communicate. I remember several times having to find a pay phone at some exit off the freeway after being paged. We now have multiple ways to enhance our performance in ES and identify areas for improvement. Available to us over the past few years are microfiber products, enhanced disinfectants, bioluminescent markers, adenosine triphosphate meters, bed tracking systems, ES management systems, automated area disinfection systems, ultraviolet disinfection systems and the list goes on.

Many of these new technologies debut at the EXCHANGE Healthcare Marketplace each fall. Be sure to make plans now to attend EXCHANGE 2013 in Indianapolis Sept. 1518. ES professionals also will want to take advantage of the newest surprises of free education with their annual membership to AHE. The AHE board decided to increase membership fees a mere $35 in 2013 to $150 per year. In return, members will receive the equivalent of $1,800 in education. New webinars and courses are designed to assist ES leaders in taking the next step. We have tools already in place and are constantly working to expand our library of professional development and educational materials for ES leaders and staff. Finally, committees and structures were established to help AHE achieve these initiatives. AHE also will need help from members to make progress on these important goals. Volunteer opportunities to support this work and the mission of AHE are available to all members.

Take some time this year to get involved and take full advantage of all AHE has to offer. And be sure to make plans to attend the conference, where you will have many opportunities to network with individuals experiencing the same stresses that you are.

By Michael Bailey, CHESP, president of AHE and environmental services director at Greenville (S.C.) Hospital System University Medical Center.

AHE insight

Valuable resources available

AHE is the membership organization of choice for professionals caring for the health care environment. Here are a few of the many educational resources that AHE offers.

• EXCHANGE 2013. Attend the industry's premier conference and trade show at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis on Sept. 1518. Registration information is available at www.ahe.org.

• Shiny Floors: The Real Deal. Attend this valuable floor care webinar, which is available for free to AHE members and for $139 to nonmembers. It's on March 20 at 1 p.m. CST. For more, go to www.ahe.org/education.

• Practice Guidance for Healthcare Environmental Cleaning, 2nd edition. Purchase this valuable resource today or download the e-book. To order by phone, call 800-242-2626 and ask for product code #057034 or log on to www.ahe.org.

• From Top To Bottom: The Environmental Services Series. This multi-part DVD series is an excellent training solution for environmental services managers and infection prevention and control professionals who may be challenged with high employee turnover, limited time to train workers, language barriers and infection rates. For more go to www.ahe.org.