Finding ways to save money and reduce spending has been helping hospitals and healthcare facilities become more efficient and cost-effective in their services.
One area of the budget that is vulnerable to reduced funding is the cleaning department. At the same time that many hospitals are cutting their cleaning budgets, however, they are making increases to their infection control budgets.
The two areas are intimately related. In fact, infection control relies heavily on proper cleaning techniques, materials, and supplies, and methods. While cutting the cleaning budget to bolster the infection control budget may seem to make sense on the surface, compromising the effectiveness of your cleaning department can actually make infection control more difficult.
Save Money without Cutting Your Cleaning Budget
The truth is that cleaning and infection control go hand in hand.
Adequate cleaning procedures are critical in the prevention of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). HAIs are more than an inconvenience, they are a large and growing concern in the healthcare industry.
HAIs are a serious health threat. Here is some alarming information about HAIs in the United States, alone:
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) reports that roughly one in 20 people in U.S. health care facilities who are given inpatient care acquire an HAI. More than 5 percent of all people admitted to hospitals in the U.S. acquire an HAI.
- HAIs are often caused by indwelling medical devices and procedures, including infections formed at injection sites, urinary catheters, the improper administration of antibiotics, and surgical procedures. HAIs can also be transmitted between patients, or from healthcare employees to patients. HAIs are also caused by contaminated surfaces in hospitals and healthcare facilities. This last cause of HAIs is directly related to cleaning procedures.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2009 that the total annual cost of medical expenses related to HAIs was in the tens of billions of dollars. One estimate by the CDC puts the cost at more than $30 billion. The same report revealed that the average cost per patient that was affected by an HAI was nearly $20,000.
- Some sources cite HAIs in the United States as being responsible for more annual deaths than breast cancer, AIDS, and automobile accidents. In fact, an average of 4 people obtain an HAI every minute of every day. The CDC reports that more than 2 million people in the U.S. obtain infectious diseases in hospitals every year, an average of 5,400 per day. That includes more than 30,000 newborn babies who are infected in hospitals. An average of 250 people die every day from HAIs.
The numbers don’t lie. These statistics show that every time an HAI occurs because of a contaminated surface in a hospital or health care environment, it costs an average of $20,000 that could have been prevented by proper cleaning.
Not all HAIs are caused by inadequate cleaning, of course, and it’s difficult to measure exactly how many infections are caused from surface contamination in healthcare environments. If the number of HAIs in the U.S. were divided equally among the possible causes, however, then it is possible that contaminated surfaces and improperly cleaned areas harboring infectious bacteria could account for at least 16 percent of the total number of HAIs.
Preventing Infection Requires Proper Cleaning
With the health of patients, the reputation of hospitals and health care facilities, and huge amounts of money at stake, it makes sense to properly fund, equip, and train cleaning departments. It is reasonable to assume that comprehensive and effective cleaning programs using effective materials, supplies, and techniques could actually reduce HAIs, saving hospitals time and money.
If an effective cleaning regimen could reduce HAIs by even just three percent (from the estimated 16 percent to 13 percent), it would translate to a savings of millions of dollars.
Sustainable Cleaning = Affordable Cleaning
Well funded cleaning departments also have the opportunity to research, train, and incorporate sustainable cleaning practices that save both time and money.
Sustainable cleaning programs use cleaning products that are more concentrated and require less packaging and transportation. This makes them good for the environment, and also more affordable.
A comprehensive sustainable cleaning practice also includes:
- Daytime cleaning hours. While not all facilities can be completely cleaned during peak hours, by transferring much of the cleaning to the daytime, hospitals and health care facilities can save money on energy bills while reducing light pollution and energy consumption. Adopting this simple change may require some complex scheduling at first, but will be worth it in the long run as your cleaning department becomes more cost-efficient.
- Sustainable training. A well-funded and well-organized cleaning department can train its staff to clean and disinfect surfaces right the first time, and teach them how to use the proper equipment. Sustainable cleaning techniques include top-down cleaning of restrooms and patient rooms, observing dwell times for cleaning products, properly mixing concentrated cleaning solutions, and spot checking high traffic areas throughout the day to ensure their cleanliness.
- Green cleaning products. While some green cleaning products appear to be more expensive, when the bigger picture of packaging, transportation, and concentration of solutions is taken into account, many end up being more cost-effective.
Do the research at your hospital or health care facility and see how your cleaning department can improve patient care, lower infection rates, and save money. You might be surprised to find that investing more resources in your cleaning department can translate to overall savings for your facility.
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