Managing a healthcare facility involves a wide variety of tasks that protect both people and property (including data) while simultaneously providing a welcoming environment for visitors.
Healthcare facilities managers and their teams are the people who keep medical buildings running. Not only are these buildings typically more complex in terms of operations and security, but the gravity of what goes on inside hospitals, clinics, and other care facilities means that facilities management personnel often needs to be invisible so that buildings can appear secure, stable, safe, and inviting all at the same time.
While it may be hard for people to appreciate what healthcare facility managers do, we’ve created a guide to this critical job to help illuminate their myriad responsibilities and challenges, as well as highlight new technologies to aid in facilities management and the trends that are making healthcare buildings run more effectively and efficiently than ever.
What are the functions of a Healthcare Facilities Management (HFM) department?
At its core, the function of a healthcare facilities management department and its team fall into five main categories:
- Facility development
HFM teams operate in facilities including:
- Hospitals of all sizes
- Doctor’s offices and specialty clinics
- Surgical centers
- Long-term care institutions, such as nursing homes
- Psychiatric care centers
- Urgent care centers
While the duties of HFM teams can be broken down into innumerable tasks, they work behind the scenes to ensure the building runs smoothly all day so that healthcare teams can do their jobs. And though they don’t treat patients, they do play a crucial role in helping to protect private patient information while ensuring it’s accessible to those who need it.
Operation and maintenance of healthcare facilities
Every healthcare facility has its own operational procedures and maintenance schedule. Some buildings require more effort due to their age, while others need more specialized talent to manage state-of-the-art building systems.
In general, the HFM team oversees day-to-day tasks such as:
- Identifying and executing repairs and improvements throughout the building to keep it both operational and comfortable (reactive maintenance)
- Building and executing preventative maintenance plans to prevent equipment downtime
- Managing the operation of utilities, including electrical and HVAC systems, to ensure fire safety, clean air and water, and uninterrupted electricity
- Overseeing the work of outside contractors and repair persons, including verifying their credentials, adhering to contract requirements, and monitoring them on-site
- Playing a role in managing the delivery of healthcare supplies
- Overseeing the installation of new machines
- Implementing physical and digital wayfinding tools for optimal people flow
- Maintaining data security to prevent or respond to cyberattacks
Some of the HFM team’s larger tasks include:
- Overseeing fire and safety inspections
- Managing budgets for facilities management
- Collecting compliance data to ensure buildings are up to code and following any new government guidelines
- Scheduling building inspections and reporting on compliance
When a healthcare facility is managed well, it can prevent equipment downtime and backlogs in care and reduce the long-term cost of maintaining old equipment or purchasing new equipment. A 2022 Hospital Construction Survey of 381 facilities professionals across the U.S. found that around 35% of hospitals had to perform emergency repairs on machines in the last three years after deferring maintenance. As a result, repairs cost nearly 18% more than average.
A 2021 report from Honeywell titled “Rethinking Healthcare Facilities as Integrated Entities” revealed that a survey of healthcare facility managers in the United States, China, Germany, and Saudi Arabia found that 61% of respondents were more willing to invest in predictive maintenance systems than in pre-pandemic times and 27% will likely procure real-time tracking of people and assets to help enhance operational efficiency. The three improvements respondents said would be of greatest benefit to their facilities’ occupants were predictive maintenance (30%), reduced downtime (29%), and better indoor air quality (28%).
Good maintenance and operational efficiency also keep staff and patients safe and satisfied and improve employee productivity. That’s just one of the many reasons more hospitals are employing visitor management systems that integrate with tools for contractor management, safety training, geofencing, and compliance management.
Healthcare Facilities Management (HFM) and security
Healthcare facilities managers also play essential roles in building and executing both physical and cybersecurity plans for hospitals and care facilities. However, ensuring a hospital stays secure involves multiple departments that need to work together, so cooperation and sharing expertise with safety officers and IT professionals is critical.
Sine’s visitor management system for health and aged care facilities is an example of the type of tool necessary to ensure a comprehensive safety program. It helps manage HFM tasks such as:
- Screening and prescreening visitors
- Credential checks, facility check-in tools, geofencing, and compliance reminders for contractors
- Providing real-time views of who is on-site and where they’re located
- ID badge printing so guests can be identified and evaluated on sight
- Emergency notification features
- Public health precautions such as vaccination screening
These tools are integral to managing the accessibility of healthcare facilities, allowing managers to admit those who need to use the facility while barring anyone who poses a threat. Monitoring guests also allows HFM teams to access real-time information on where guests are located. This helps keep them safe and protects patients, staff, sensitive medical equipment, and patient data (including electronic medical records).
When choosing VMS software, healthcare facilities management needs to build in privacy by design. For example, a VMS from Sine can purge data from sign-in devices and customize data collection so that only vital information is collected or that data is anonymized.
Hospitals have been the targets of persistent and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. Ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations are increasing at a rate of 94% each year, according to a 2021 report by Sophos. In 2021, 66% of healthcare organizations experienced a ransomware attack (up 34% in 2020), and threats are growing more complex. The report also found that healthcare organizations that paid ransom only got back around 65% of their data in 2021 and that the average cost for healthcare to rectify these attacks is $1.85 million. In addition, 44% of healthcare organizations needed a week to recover from significant attacks, while 25% needed up to one month.
It’s no surprise then that 2022 data from the Ponemon Institute and Proofpoint indicates that over 20% of healthcare organizations surveyed reported increased patient mortality rates after experiencing a cyberattack, typically as a result of delayed procedures.
While healthcare facilities may not always be able to stave off cyberattacks, they can use a VMS to ensure they’re compliant with the latest security protocols and help restrict access to non-compliant individuals as much as possible.
How do healthcare facilities managers keep facilities compliant?
Investing in effective compliance management protects healthcare facilities from breaches and allows HCM teams to automate and digitize regulatory compliance procedures such as document collection and verification.
Compliance software such as Sine’s VMS allows HFM teams to:
- Save time by automating everyday tasks
- Creates an audit trail for reporting and investigations mandated by federal and state entities, including OSHA
- Abide by relevant data laws for citizens of other countries, including GDPR
- Alert teams to the expiration of compliance documents
- Remain HIPAA compliant
- Prevent non-compliant individuals from entering a facility
- Aid in data collection for ongoing certification and accreditation requirements
The role of healthcare facilities managers in building development
With new patient needs and evolving technology comes the need to expand and rebuild healthcare facilities. HFM teams typically play a role in everything from the design of new structures to managing safety on construction sites. They may also oversee project budgets.
When healthcare facilities undergo renovations and new construction, it’s even more crucial to monitor the people on-site and stay compliant with regulations.
Challenges facing Healthcare Facilities Management (HFM)
Healthcare facilities and their management teams face new issues and obstacles that require rethinking everything from the way buildings are constructed for maximum efficiency to tracking minute details of people’s movements to keep staff, patients, and data secure.
Here are just a few of the new challenges that healthcare facilities management teams are grappling with in light of new security and public health threats and sustainability and safety compliance:
- Keeping buildings and machines operational amidst increasingly sophisticated technology and its energy needs
- Ensuring buildings don’t help spread deadly diseases like COVID-19
- Abiding by constantly-changing government restrictions on social distancing/capacity management and contact-tracking
- Gaining clear insight into how people use and move through facilities to suggest improvements
- Implementing new technology such as contactless check-in, visitation duration monitoring, and security screenings
- Preparing facilities for natural disasters
- Safeguarding the identity information of contractors, visitors, and other guests from increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks
- Maintaining compliance (and recording compliance data) to avoid regulatory fines
- Gathering data to prepare for future public health emergencies
- Finding the most efficient way to collect, store, and utilize data collected as part of new visitor management system technology
It’s crucial for HFMs to create new policies and onboard sophisticated software systems and management tools to meet these challenges.
Which technologies do healthcare facilities managers and their teams use?
Honeywell’s “Rethinking Healthcare Facilities as Integrated Entities” report found that healthcare facilities are increasingly looking into smart building technologies to increase operational efficiencies. The majority (56%) said these technologies would be most helpful in improving staff productivity and building operations, while 52% were eager to use technology to manage various building systems “through a single platform with unified data and insights.”
Sine’s visitor management system provides precisely this kind of convenience, allowing hospitals and aged care facilities alike to:
- Improve patient care and clinical outcomes
- Increase operational efficiency and insight
- Optimize assets to improve the patient experience (cutting down wait times, decreasing bottlenecks, etc.)
- Maintain compliance with easy reporting tools
- Improve patient and staff satisfaction
Managing health and aged care facilities in light of constantly changing restrictions and government regulations requires updating current operational procedures, upgrading technology, and finding ways to prepare for future uncertainties.
To learn more about how Sine can help your healthcare facilities management team, visit sine.co/sectors/health-aged-care.