Medical Articles

Facility management: A key pillar of safe patient care

Authored by: Lisa Hardesty, MA, CHSP, CFI, Director, Global Consulting, Joint Commission International and Uma Tata Murty, Director, International Segment Marketing, Joint Commission International

Lisa Hardesty (left) and Uma Tata Murty (right)

Whether a hospital has five patient beds or 5,000, all healthcare facilities exist to fulfill the same purpose: to provide high-quality and compassionate medical care to the communities they serve. And that means providing safe, functional and supportive facilities. The role healthcare facility management teams play in delivering on this mission can be pivotal—they literally lay the foundation for patient-safe facilities.

It takes a team

When organizations plan to build a healthcare facility, it’s only natural to engage the help of an architect, engineer and builder. Bringing a team into the fold that also understands the clinical side of the business, however, is often overlooked. A clinically focused approach from the beginning keeps a construction project patient centered.  Such approach considers how to reduce and control hazards and risks; prevent accidents and injuries; and maintain safe conditions within the built environment, while creating a space for optimal workflow, allowing organizations to set up for success and avoid costly happening.

An expert healthcare facility management team that is clinically oriented will help shape effective multidisciplinary plans, education and monitoring.  For example, the leaders will be able to assess the space, equipment, and resources needed to safely and effectively support their clinical services.  All staff, including administrators, technicians, and clinicians will be educated about the facility and will be encouraged to report situations that pose risks.  Furthermore, comprehensive, facility-wide risk assessments will be developed and monitored that result in establishing key performance criteria to measure safety risks.

Generally, a well-balanced facility management plan should include:

  • Robust maintenance strategies to maximize operations, equipment longevity, and patient and staff safety
  • Education on the impact of physical environment on patient care
  • Proactive responses to risks and monitoring outcomes
  • Evaluation of how the building(s) design promotes safety and compliance, improves clinical workflows and contributes to safe patient outcomes
  • Prevention of hazards and accidents
  • Well-defined performance improvement and project management tools

The tenants of facility management excellence

To affect facility management operational excellence, healthcare leaders should foster a culture of standardized processes and policies that focus on eight important areas:

  1. Safety. Planning buildings, grounds and equipment that maximize safety for patients, staff and visitors.
  2. Security. Safeguarding assets from loss, destruction, tampering or unauthorized use.
  3. Hazardous wastes. Handling, storing and properly disposing of hazardous materials.
  4. Fire safety. Protecting properties and occupants from fire and smoke.
  5. Medical equipment. Selecting, maintaining and using equipment in a manner that reduces safety risks.
  6. Utility systems. Maintaining electric, water and other systems to minimize risks and operating failures.
  7. Emergency management. Responding quickly and effectively to issues regarding structural integrity, epidemics, disasters and emergencies.
  8. Construction and renovation. Designing and building appropriate spaces and minimizing possible risks to patients, staff and visitors during the construction phase.

From planning and design to construction and maintenance, these focus areas consider every aspect of facility management. By working to implement best practices in each of them, healthcare organizations can forge a path toward creating spaces that optimize patient safety and outcomes—and set the gold standard.

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