While the health facility commissioning process was once rare, it is becoming more popular as health care leaders see the payoffs and value commissioning has provided other facilities.

"As people learn more about commissioning, they see the cost vs. the benefits. They see the value of commissioning," says Mark Kenneday, CHFM, FASHE, vice chancellor of campus operations at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and one of the authors of ASHE's Health Facility Commissioning Guidelines (HFCx Guidelines).

ASHE published the HFCx Guidelines in 2010, creating the only set of commissioning guidelines that specifically address health care. In 2012 ASHE will publish a handbook to accompany the guidelines that will provide details about how to perform commissioning activities. ASHE is also working to educate the industry about commissioning through seminars, chapter meetings, and educational tracks at its conferences, including the upcoming International Summit & Exhibition on Health Facility Planning, Design & Construction (PDC) in Phoenix on March 4-7.

ASHE's work in explaining the process has helped commissioning become more popular, says Ed Tinsley, P.E., LEED AP, HFDP, CHFM, managing principal of TME Inc. "It's become much more mainstream, and is becoming more so every day," says Tinsley, a co-author of the HFCx Guidelines.

The results from previous commissioning projects also contribute to the growing popularity of health facility commissioning. It's easier to convince hospital executives to spend the money needed for commissioning if there is evidence of the impressive return on investment promised for the commissioning effort.

Previous projects have shown cost savings through commissioning that exceed the cost of the process. For example, a new medical center in the mid-South spent about $600,000 on a commissioning fee and saw one-time savings of nearly $250,000 in addition to ongoing savings of more than $1 million a year. A hospital in Tennessee, meanwhile, reported annual energy savings of more than $1.2 million from several commissioning efforts and was recognized by ASHE as one of four hospitals that cut energy consumption by more than 10 percent over a 12-month period. In addition to dollars-and-cents savings, commissioning also can help improve patient safety by avoiding dangers caused by faulty equipment or malfunctions.

To learn more about commissioning, register online for ASHE's PDC Summit at www.pdcsummit.org, or order the Health Facility Commissioning Guidelines through the ASHE Store at www.ashestore.com. The accompanying commissioning handbook will be available on the ASHE Store website this year.

This month's column was written by Deanna Martin, senior communications specialist for the American Society for Healthcare Engineering.

ASHE insight

Resources available

ASHE offers important resources to professionals in the health care industry. They include the following:

  • Health Facility Commissioning Guidelines. Written by health care professionals, this resource helps optimize construction or renovation delivery. The ASHE commissioning process establishes a standard language and process for commissioning health care facilities that are cost-effective and efficient and deliver the desired return on investment. The guidelines can help ensure a successful transition from construction completion to a sustainable, high-performance operation.
  • Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities. The 2010 guidelines cover minimum program, space and design needs for all clinical and support areas of hospitals, nursing facilities, freestanding psychiatric facilities, outpatient and rehabilitation facilities, and long-term care facilities. They also include new material on acoustics, patient handling and movement, patient safety, bariatric patient care, cancer treatment and emergency services. The guidelines are referenced by more than 42 state departments of licensure or health.

For information on purchasing either of these valuable references, go to www.ashestore.com.