For the laundry, taking every precaution to deliver clean, safe linen is top priority. Equally important is being proactive in making your clients aware of your processes and controls to produce clean, safe linen and of their role in insuring that linen remains clean when it leaves your control.
A recent Consumer Reports’ article “Surviving Your Hospital Stay” (March, 2014) published statics indicating that 440,000 people die each year after suffering a “medical error” while hospitalized. That’s more than 1,000 people a day who die from causes as varied as getting an infection to receiving the wrong medication and a much higher number than previously reported. Steven Tinker, Senior Vice President of Research and Development for Gurtler Industries, observes, “The laundry industry has faced increased scrutiny as regulators, inspectors, customers and infection control personnel have sought to eliminate the laundry itself and the textiles they process as vectors for the spread of disease.”
As the public becomes increasing aware that some hospitals have much higher “error” rates and, as new regulations link reimbursement to patient outcome, healthcare providers face increased pressure to safeguard patients. Priorities have changed; the administrator who focused on price is much more interested in what the laundry can bring to the table to insure patient safety.
To protect current business and continue to grow, the Independent processing healthcare linen must be proactive in documenting that his procedures meet guidelines for producing safe linen and in sharing that information with customers and prospects. In the opinion of laundries who are accredited, the expense and time required is well rewarded with additional business. Many ILs also actively market “sanitizing” as a higher level of safety.
Tinker points out, “The wash process in general produces “hygienically clean” textiles without any special modifications or chemistry. Hygienically clean textiles do not have pathogenic bacteria in sufficient concentrations to cause human illness, but are not completely free of bacteria or sanitized.” In order to be considered sanitized, textiles must be autoclaved using specific time, temperature and pressure or an EPA registered sanitizer must be used during the laundry process.
Our Preferred Suppliers offer EPA registered sanitizers that, when used according to direction kill 99.9% of known pathogens during the wash and protect the textiles once they leave the wash equipment. These advanced chemicals retain active antimicrobial properties during handling, transport and storage with an invisible protective barrier that repels water/oil based liquids and bodily fluids. An added bonus is extended linen life compared to using chlorine.
The cost of adding bacteriostatic products to the wash cycle is minimal and you will find your healthcare clients eager to let their patients know about this extra level of protection.
Market Your Expertise
Document and share the steps you take to provide safe linen and protect patients and employees at your customer’s facility and yours. In today’s highly regulated and litigious environment, you’ll find that healthcare customers and prospects are very interested.
- Document how your process* for handling contaminated textiles meets and exceeds standards.
- Sanitize for that higher level of protection. Our chemical suppliers have excellent marketing material describing the results achieved with this step.
- Provide documentation of your process for random selection of textiles for testing by an independent lab and test results.
- All laundries cover textiles to protect during transport. Consider that next level of protection, bagging individual items. Your competition is already taking this step.
- Make sure your customer knows his/her role in keeping the textile safe once it leaves your control.
*Not accredited? Accreditation documents that your processes and procedures meet OSHA requirements for producing clean, safe linen. Both HLAC and TRSA offer accreditation. HLAC is widely recognized by healthcare professionals. HLAC also offers substantial discounts when 3 or more laundries apply at the same time. Contact Regina Baras, Executive Director, 855 277-4522 for information.