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Laundry Shouldn't Be Lethal

Outsourcing Linen Services Reduces Operating Costs

New CleanCare Plant: Wringing Out Inefficiencies, High Costs For Hospital Linen Cares

Laundry Tracking System Keeps Hospital Bedsheets, Balance Sheets Clean

Outsourcing Linen Services Reduces Operating Costs
By Kitty Julian

Managed care has had a tremendous influence on the cost-cutting and monitoring procedures in health care facilities. Now, the use and cost of everything - from a diagnostic test to a bath towel - must be monitored. Would your health care facility benefit from outsourcing its laundry? Here are some issues to consider.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Linens
To control spiraling linen and laundry costs, hospitals and other health care providers have begun working with linen supply companies instead of maintaining a laundry within the premises. Linda Burgman, General Manager at CleanCare, a Pittsburgh-based, health care-focused linen service company, points out just a few benefits.

"A hospital or nursing home's capital expenses are zero when it chooses to use an outside linen supply company. They do not make initial investments in linens, nor do they have operational expenses like utilities and employees. They can redirect these savings and focus their management on patient care," Burgman said. In addition, the square footage needed for a laundry can be used more efficiently for ancillary services.

Outsourcing Helps You Come into Compliance
By turning to an outside linen supply company, health care providers should be guaranteed JCAHO compliance without hassles and headaches. The issues of infection control and employee protection have become more important than ever since the enactment of OSHA regulations for bloodborne pathogens. By contracting with a service that specializes in health care linens, hospitals and health care facilities can have confidence that they are in compliance with regulatory codes.

Linen Services Offer Adequate Inventory
Outsourcing linens provides relief from inventory purchasing and maintenance hassles. In addition to providing adequate supply, the linen company should also monitor usage as census increases or decreases. Outsourcing linens allows hospitals and clinics to focus on staff management and patient care, not on linen supplies.

Accountability: Track Inventory
Linens are a necessary part of doing business in the medical profession. CleanCare uses computer technology to monitor and track linen usage, providing you with accountability you do not by doing your laundry in-house. CleanCare's usage control system compares actual usage with a statistical norm, indicates which departments are overusing linens and suggests areas where staff can use additional training. While few linen services have this inventory control feature, the long-term cost savings of working with computer tracking systems can be enormous.

Matt Bukovan, manager of Transport Services, Linen and the Mail Center at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, explains, "Through the computerized tracking system, user departments at West Penn are now aware of their utilization."

Since they began monitoring their usage three years ago, West Penn's linen costs have been reduced by 22 percent. An additional 2 percent reduction is expected this year.

Choosing a Linen Service Company
Cost is not the only factor worth considering when choosing a linen service company. Also consider a company's customer service record, training and experience.

Customer Service
The Key to a successful partnership between a health care organization and its linen supply company is their service relationship. A service manager should take personal responsibility for customer satisfaction by visiting clients to monitor inventories and looking out for potential logistical problems that in-house staff might not notice.

Training
Brian Shivler, Director of Business Development for Rehabilitation Services, also recommends working with companies that will offer their client's employees additional training in customer service and linen care. "Better linen service companies will send staff members to customers' facilities to teach their employees how to track and care for linens, exceed customer expectations, cut costs and waste, and comply with health regulations," said Diana Young, a Certified Health Education specialist with CleanCare. Young provides in-service seminars for acute and sub-acute care employees on topics such as OSHA compliance and linen utilization.

Experience
As director of Landmark Manor, Landmark East, and Landmark North Assisted Living Facilities, Betty Apitsch oversees the care of 231 extended care patients. Apitsch had difficulty with delivery, customer service, inventory and arranging emergency deliveries from previous linen service companies. According to Apitsch, CleanCare helped as well as enjoy a level of customer service that Landmark had not had with other linen service companies.

"When the flu goes around, we change sheets much more often. We needed a company that could anticipate increased need for linens and we wanted hassle free service. Now we never have problems with delivery. Now we never have problems with delivery. If we need increased inventory, they'll deliver the next day, or the same day if necessary," Apitsch said.

In conclusion, deciding to outsource your linen supply requires re-evaluation of your health care linen needs and cost constraints. No matter what your decision about outsourcing., it's time well-spent. You may find that outsourcing helps you increase your efficiency, comply with health regulations and offer your patients and staff a more pleasant and comfortable health care experience.

Five Ways You Can Reduce Linen Costs

  1. Track Usage
    Keeping track of linen usage increases awareness of possible waste.

  2. Educate Your Staff
    Get your staff on your side by holding in-service sessions on linen costs and regulations, and then set goals for your staff.

  3. Reduce Waste
    Publicize use, waste and savings on employee bulletin boards so your staff can see progress.

  4. Post Results
    Publicize use, waste and savings on employee bulletin boards so your staff can see progress.

  5. Select a Linen Service Carefully
    Choose a company that monitors inventory and usage, responds quickly, offers employee training and can provide a list of references.

Copyright, January 1997, Pittsburgh Hospital News. Used with Permission.

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