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Off-site and outpatient deserve the same commitment to clean

You don’t have to turn on the news to see constant reminders of the changing face of health care. One of the bigger trends causing ripples across medical organizations is the acceleration of outpatient care. The American Medical Association reports that more than three-fourths of U.S. health care is now performed outside hospital walls—in physician offices, outpatient clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, etc.

For environmental services, that trend translates into big challenges. The same infection-prevention protocols that have to be maintained in the hospital setting are just as important in your off-site clinics. But all too often, medical facilities struggle with implementing the infrastructure and resources to ensure an effective and efficient cleaning program.

In fact, changes to the overall continuum of care means environmental services departments have to constantly adjust. Patti Costello, executive director for the Association for the Healthcare Environment, elaborates in Health Facilities Management:

“Environmental services leaders must be prepared to make this shift quickly to support areas where patients have to be moved efficiently through the care environment. For example, rather than daily cleaning of an occupied patient room as well as discharge cleaning, the demand is for quick, multiple turnarounds of outpatient rooms and, perhaps, at multiple locations.”

This challenge is just one more on the pile for ES leadership. As reimbursement rates are increasingly tied to patient satisfaction scores and quality measures (including hospital-acquired infections), the pressure to achieve an effective environmental cleaning plan has never been greater.

Bring order to outpatient

It all starts with a plan. Each facility is forced to approach environmental cleaning with the resources they have available, but using those resources wisely depends on the strength of your strategy.

The first step is to get all of your staff involved and invested. Work with your infection control folks on some basic education and some much-needed motivation to stay compliant with the processes you have in place. And be sure to include competency testing to allow you to provide immediate feedback as each member of your team learns the procedures.

Once that base education is in place, resist the urge to tackle too many things at once. Instead, focus on two or three key quality measures and how you can make improvements to those over the course of the year.

Finally, consider outsourcing to relieve some of the pressure on your in-house staff. Budget is, of course, important, but as Barbara Connell writes in Health Facilities Management, outsourcing can provide some key assistance:

“The most effective companies could provide some benefits that cannot be achieved with an in-house program, including focused experience with medical and health care cleaning accounts, a regular inspection process to ensure quality and consistency, Cleaning Industry Management Standard certification with adherence to bloodborne pathogen guidelines, and knowledge of HIPAA regulations.”

We work with many health care organizations and have found great success covering their off-site locations. We’re skilled at covering multiple sites across a wide area, and we specialize in part-time employees—which means your organization doesn’t need to manage the additional scheduling, payroll and benefits that would be required to provide adequate coverage. Not only does this save you money, but it means your ES staff can stay centrally located, serving your patients, and doing high-quality cleaning without the distraction of travelling all across town.

As health care expands and diversifies the options for patients, the need for an effective environmental cleaning program is even more important. Consider a partnership that’s not only good for your patients and your ES staff, but for your organization as well.

Perry Patterson is the area manager of the northwest Arkansas location for SG360, a facility services company specializing in environmentally friendly janitorial services, as well as facilities management, restoration services, and inventory management. How are you managing your off-site locations? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or on Twitter @ServiceGroup360.