The pressures on hospital executives to reduce expenses while improving quality continue to increase amidst constant change. Soriant Solutions is committed to advancing healthcare support services by finding cost-saving solutions while improving patient care. In this inaugural installment of the Soriant Source, we examine the top three trends influencing support services and how to meet these challenges in the future.
Trend One: Green Technology and Recycling
Green technology and recycling will continue to have a significant influence within the support services industry today and in the future. “Many organizations have already begun ‘go green’ campaigns. Hospital cafeterias are moving to green, single-use china/silverware and are actively incorporating recycling stations that segregate waste. Cardboard bailers are used to remove tonnage from the municipal waste stream and are sold to recycling haulers,” says Chris Brown, Senior Vice President.
There is considerable work being done to reduce the chemical impact on the patient and staff environment through chemical-free cleaning and sanitizing. Additionally, the use of high frequencies of UV light will increase as an alternative to eliminate germs and harmful chemicals.
“The UV sanitizing technology (Xenex) has the potential to dramatically change the industry. The trend has been to use stronger and faster acting chemicals with the unintended impact of influencing employee health and safety. With the emergence of this technology, the potential is there to obtain the desired results without the negative environmental and employee health issues,” explains Peter M. Smith, Chief Operating Officer.
Other ways environmental services (EVS) focuses on being green is through its use of recycled paper products and non-bleached paper. Additionally, laundry services support green initiatives by reducing bed change frequencies from daily to “as-needed.” As the industry finds affordable solutions, the green focus will increase substantially.
Trend Two: Advancing Technology
The growing reliance on computer technology to align hospital space and productivity metrics will have specific effects on the management of labor in EVS. For example, there is current technology that monitors when employees enter the patient room, how much time they spend, and how often they have contact with the patient. Hospitals are also using a variety of software programs to monitor and control EVS labor, and these programs are very beneficial if used appropriately. “The information provided through technology can be tremendously helpful to EVS departments in managing the need to alter their staffing based on volume,” says Mr. Brown.
Robot technology is utilized for some custodial tasks at night: vacuuming, hard floor cleaning, and sanitizing patient rooms. This, in turn, reduces the need for labor and ensures that rooms are 100% sanitized. Floor care machines are currently available that use water in place of chemicals to strip the wax off floors (Boost Technology). They use electromagnetic technology to “release” the wax, which reduces chemical expense and carbon footprint. With obvious impact within the EVS sector, technological advancement will continue to drive the support services industry of the future.
Trend Three: Joint Ventures and Transparency
Vendors and health systems often operate as rivals with clashing economic interests, but in the future partnerships between these counterparts may be something we see more frequently to create situations in which both sides will share cost and profit. “I see joint ventures as a rising trend. Instead of outsourcing, I consider this the new wave where all contractor-vendor income is transparent and shared by the vendor and hospital system,” says President and Founder Brian Nugent.
Transparency on prices and rebates from other vendors may affect support services in many ways, specifically in terms of cost savings. “Typically providers use rebates to subsidize their ‘management’ expense. If clients were unaware of rebates being obtained by the provider, then those would be hidden revenues for the provider. The providers would have unfavorable financial outcomes if they were to lose the rebates, but by demonstrating transparency, they could adjust their management rates to make up the difference,” says Mr. Brown.
Hospitals will continue to require the ability to compare their performance against comparably sized facilities in similar geographies. Labor productivity will increasingly be measured using third parties such as Thomson Reuters, and vendors will need to become more transparent with their income and in aligning with the hospitals’ income. The use of industry experts will help to inform hospital management and force vendors to comply with stricter transparency parameters. According to Mr. Nugent, “Clients are becoming aware slowly but surely of the other income that their vendors are making, and they will be looking for inventive ways for the vendor to give back or share this income.”
The top three trends in the support services industry— the influence of green technology and recycling, technological advancements, and joint ventures and increasing levels of transparency—will continue to evolve as new solutions for meeting these challenges are unearthed.