Many healthcare organizations are finalizing their annual budgets and preparing to turn to the next fiscal year. This budgeting season has been met with obstacles about how to appropriately manage and tackle financial headwinds as health systems across the United States reported massive losses due in large part to inflationary pressures, rising labor costs and more.
When leadership teams are tasked with difficult choices of where to reduce spending, many consider what capital improvement projects could be delayed or what maintenance could be deferred. However, executives must understand that the four walls of a hospital are just as critical to patients' quality of care. Making short-term cuts to relieve financial pressures in the here and now could lead to higher costs down the line. With June deemed as Workplace Safety Month, we’re reminded that facility managers and experts must be brought into the fold during these critical financial discussions. They have a wealth of knowledge about how certain cuts could impact overall compliance, safety and disaster planning.
Facility managers often carry the responsibility of ensuring a hospital system remains compliant. However, compliance must be viewed proactively rather than reactively when it comes to evaluating risks. During budgeting season when a healthcare system’s financial picture is looking bleak, leadership teams may consider cutting back in this area. This not only poses safety concerns for the patients and staff who work or use these facilities, but it can also put those hospitals in a position to spend even more money down the road to address a potential issue.
Instead, your facility management teams should be well-equipped to address any compliance matters before they become a risk. Searching for and evaluating healthcare facility compliance risks is like noticing there’s no tread on your tires before getting behind the wheel to drive. You know the risks that come with driving on bald tires, and you don’t need a police officer to pull you over to tell you it’s time to get replacements. But if you opt to defer buying new tires and your old tires end up causing a crash, you are now stuck having to pay for new tires as well as any additional repairs to your vehicle. Replacing the tires beforehand would have been much more cost-effective to begin with, and the same is true for facility compliance concerns.
A study from Harvard Medical School found that nearly 1 in 4 patients admitted to the hospital in the United States will experience harm. That staggering statistic should cause some alarm among healthcare leadership teams as patient and visitors’ safety should always be their number one priority. While facility management teams do not directly treat illnesses or injuries, they work to ensure the hospital environment is a safe space, which we know is essential to a patient’s healing experience. Compliance and safety go hand-in-hand – they should be integrated with one another to ensure teams have the resources they need to assess risks, including reducing ligature points and potential weapons for those who are at risk for self-harm.
It’s understood that creating safety plans and monitoring facilities for compliance and safety risks do come with a cost. However, investing in preventive work pales in comparison to having to address it reactively.
No matter if your hospital is located in Tornado Alley in the Midwest or is susceptible to earthquakes on the west coast, facility managers play an integral role in developing disaster plans for when those events occur. Healthcare systems are the cornerstones of our communities and are often the first point of contact for residents when their neighborhoods experience a natural disaster or other crisis. Whether it’s developing contingency plans to move patients to another hospital or relying on backup power sources, hospitals must be prepared to operate during these catastrophes. The most effective plans are created and perfected before disaster strikes – not during it.
As with compliance and safety, disaster planning is a critical component of facility management teams’ duties within healthcare systems. Ensuring they are equipped with the resources and funding they need to carry out their roles and responsibilities can help your organization continue to serve your community when they need it the most.
Workplace Safety Month comes at a critical time for healthcare systems across the United States as it reminds us that facility management is not an area that can simply cut back on spending during financial headwinds. While doing so might provide some short-term reprieve, it could also end up costing hospital leadership teams more in the long run.