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The housekeeping and healthcare markets has grown over the last decade from pushing brooms, mopping floors and making beds to include various other activities including patient transportation, parking, valet, waste management and other environmental service duties. This accounts for an 11 percent increase in outsourced services in the environmental service field from 2002-2003.

This increase of duties has been the force behind many facilities outsourcing their environmental service and housekeeping departments. As a rule of thumb - but with exceptions – outsourced duties in nursing homes and senior living facilities are referred to as housekeeping and in healthcare the outsourced duties are under environmental services. But there is no exception in the fact that these “outside” companies are taking on more and new responsibilities to aid in the smooth operations of a facility by centralizing work demands and supplying facilities with qualified, trained management professionals.

From management to runners, facilities can choose who and what positions to outsource. Management contracts keep all employees with the exception of outsourced management on the hospital payroll, whereas in full service, or turnkey contracts the outsourcing company takes over payroll and human resource management for the entire department -- from the mop pusher to ceiling washer.

Mike McCormack, senior vice president of environmental services brand management for Sodexho, USA, sees several emerging trends increasing outsourced housekeeping and environmental services.

“Transport management, from transporting patients to transporting lab specimens, is a growing trend, typically in the larger hospitals,” says McCormack, “Before, every department had their people running through the hospital and there was a lot of lost productive time.” He also notes the benefit facilities derive from using their trained professionals. “Placing trained managers adds to consistency and quality assurance in a facility. If you have an in house manager who leaves for some reason, chances are the next guy will have their own management system, whereas Sodexho trained employees provide a smooth transition,” says McCormack. “Our efforts are to keep things consistent.”

When placing management and employees nationally, consistency is supplemented by Sodexho University, an education arm of the company that offers live instructional classes nationally on duties such as carpet care, quality assurance, environmental staffing and linen management.

Patient and visitor amenities which ease the burden of a hospital experience are another upcoming housekeeping trend. “You can do things on the food service side – like room service where someone can call down for food and have it their way,” says McCormack.

“Those are the type of things that we can do for a patient that makes their stay easier and more comfortable. It could be as simple as asking the patient what kind of music they like and delivering a CD player.”

Capacity management is another area that hospital outsiders are stepping into.

Knowing what beds are available and how soon, knowing when a patient leaves a room so someone can clean or when a patient gets discharged is a key component in environment that can either grease or cog the wheel.

Sodexho’s bed tracking program speeds up the patient admission process, explains McCormack. “A lot of times when you have a backlog in ER people will walk away – a lost revenue opportunity for the hospital. So a system that helps move them seamlessly into rooms is a big advantage.

Deborah Hetrick, senior director, product development at ARAMARK Healthcare Management Services agrees, citing that in healthcare, recent growth of outsourcing lies in the demand for patient satisfaction. “Hospitals are looking at driving patient satisfaction and they’re looking at housekeeping to play that role,” she says. “Of course, it’s always the mission to keep the facility clean and safe, but more and more technology is a hot item. And not all hospitals have it.”

ARAMARK’s customer service call center that operates with their environmental services program receives and handles calls from department heads, patients or nurses. “There’s always a friendly voice to take care of a question or problem,” says Hetrick. “A lot of times managers are out on the floor or it could be after hours. These administration support centers can run seven days a week with extended hours.”

The call centers are typically located on the hospital premises but sometimes they’re at a centralized location and, as with a hotel line, someone is always there to meet a patient or visitor’s needs. “It could be a housekeeping request, or a late order for food service,” says Hetrick. “This is definitely an emerging service trend in hospitals.”

As for actual trends in cleaning technology, Hetrick notes that microfiber is growing in use. “When you look at a cleaning system, there has not been any real monumental changes, but Microfiber has made a productivity and service impact. Employees are less fatigued and more satisfied which leads to a more productive staff and happier service worker,” she says. “That not only drives visitor satisfaction, but helps hospitals maintain a better place to work so they can retain their employees.”

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Faultless Laundry Spending $12 million on New Plant

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Faultless Laundry Co. is spending almost $12 million on a facility to accommodate its growing St. Louis business which has grown from 28 million pounds to 36 million pounds due to a new contract. Faultless serves more than 30 acute hospitals and over 400 retail medical locations in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.