Health Professions February 17, 2019
Standing out from the crowd

By Andrew Wells - World Healthcare Journal

Healthcare providers are facing increasing pressures in demand due to the impact of ageing and chronic disease. Squaring the circle of improving the quality and safety while reducing costs can prove to be an almost impossible task which requires tough choices to be made.

The focus of transformation for leadership teams is often on high-profile medical services that are provided to patients, including the doctors, nurses and equipment that deliver them. The hospital environment itself, and the services that support it are often overlooked and underinvested despite their criticality to the smooth-running of the hospital and shaping patient experience.

This is not just a question of hospital design, but ensuring the ongoing availability of a calm and well-maintained building that meets the dynamic demands of patient care to promote a therapeutic environment. This encourages positive interactions between patients and sta and provides a solid base from which to improve care and efficiency.

Serco, as a strategic partner with international service delivery experience, can help healthcare providers transform their services and differentiate themselves from their competitors.


Enhanced Care and Safety

A focus on output and outcome-based measures drives greater accountability and incentivises the pursuit of quality and innovation as well as financial benefits across the hospital estate.

Benefits include:

  • Enhanced prevention and control of infection through higher standards of cleanliness, implementation of enhanced disinfection methods such as ultra-violet and hydrogen peroxide vapour systems

  • Improved patient satisfaction and faster recovery

  • More time for clinical staff to look after patients as they spend less time on support activities which can be undertaken by Serco staff 

  • Increased bed utilisation and shorter bed turnaround times, allowing more intensive use of hospital assets and equipment 


Innovation and technology 

New technologies are disrupting all parts of home and work life and the health sector is a particular area of focus and opportunity. However, sound selection and implementation decisions are required to make the most of expensive investments.

  • Robotics: Automated Guided Vehicles to transfer waste linen and meals; robotic floor cleaners

  • Digitisation: Central capture and management of service tasks via a Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) - demand can be monitored, reported and analysed to forecast future resource allocation, reducing reactive tasks and enabling route cause analysis and continuous improvement. Tasks requested through digital portals reduce use of email and phones and allow further automation

  • Enhanced cleaning and monitoring systems: To reduce the risk and spread of infection Serco has developed a combination of industry-leading systems and processes

  • Internet of Things: sensors and beacons used to track patients, staff, and equipment so they can be easily found and provide data on flows around the hospital

  • Artificial Intelligence: predictive alerts and actions following the automatic recognition of patterns 


Meeting demand, reducing waste

Traditionally, hospital support services have been planned based on ‘inputs’, with requirements specifying the number of cleaners, porters or engineers required but little capacity to flex up or down to meet peaks or troughs in demand. However, more sophisticated modelling techniques and greater data has increasingly enabled identification of fluctuations in daily, monthly and seasonal demand, to enable better scheduling of resources including centralisation to optimise the response to reactive tasks.

“Maintaining a safe and caring healthcare environment requires constant support and investment”


Integration

Despite working in the same physical building, services are often siloed and fragmented within a hospital. Departments and wards are managed separately while key support services are often delivered by different suppliers causing poor communications and inconsistency in quality.

A strategic partner can firstly integrate horizontally across non-clinical services to tease out the synergies between them. This can include initiatives to pool resources, upskilling staff and tackle common problems. A single point of contact makes it easier to respond to emerging issues proactively.

Secondly, a strategic partner presents opportunities for vertical integration with clinical services enabling genuine teamwork on the ward. By identifying key integration points, Serco has developed processes and roles that promote integration.


Motivated People

While health professionals tend to undergo continuous training and development there is often underinvestment in support staff. A strategic partner can, therefore, provide the career development opportunities for cleaners, porters, catering assistants that would not be ordinarily available to broaden their skills as well as develop management skills.

Multi-skilling is a key approach that adds strings to the staff’s bow but also enables operational efficiencies such as those described above. It can also reduce labour costs over time as fewer people are required to carry out the same volume of tasks improving productivity and performance quality as staff gain more experience.

Support staff, especially cleaners and porters, often have more contacts with patients than clinical staff, therefore investment and nurturing of their so skills can potentially reap huge rewards. By promoting positive interactions and feeding intelligence back to clinicians they can significantly improve patient experience.


Conclusion

Maintaining a safe and caring healthcare environment requires constant support and investment. The expertise required to undertake this is not often a core capability of healthcare providers, but is an essential component of the therapeutic process that should be sourced from a trusted partner that can transfer international experience and best practice to maximise outcomes for patients and staff.


E: andrew.wells@serco.ae | T: +971 (0) 4 417 3000 | www.serco.com


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