By Steve Berg, Vice President of Product Strategy and Development,
Kristy Warren, Director, Clinical Resources,
Encompass Group, LLC
According to Global Market Insights, the hospital linen supply and management services market is on a path to substantial growth in the next five years. What’s driving that expansion? Simply put, a greater need for healthcare facilities to be more hygienic. Between increasing healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs), and the greater focus on safeguards and sanitation due to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, hospitals, and all healthcare providers must continue to enhance their approach to textile care.
With The Clean Show– North America’s largest exposition for laundering, dry cleaning, textile care services, supplies, and equipment– on the horizon, let’s take a look at how healthcare facilities are handling linens, the challenges they face, and how new technologies and practices are helping them solve problems and make noteworthy advancements.
Outsource or in-house?
Most hospitals outsource linen processing. By doing so, they enjoy a professionally managed linen program guaranteed to be hygienically clean. This benefit cannot be understated, particularly now that we’re in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic. By contracting linen supply and laundering, along with other non-clinical services, healthcare facilities can make patient care the center of their attention.
However, some hospitals still choose to launder all their linens internally, from sheets to gowns, towels to curtains. This approach can be successful, but only if the on-premise laundry is well-managed and can guarantee the same level of hygiene as external professional laundry services provide. Many hospitals have found that washing and maintaining their own textiles can be cost-prohibitive, time-consuming, and ineffectual.
In addition, in-house textile maintenance and storage may generate an opportunity for contamination of clean linens, depending on the placement of linen carts and closets. It’s important to consider location, cart covering, traffic patterns with healthcare personnel as well as visitors, and the number of linens on the cart or how often the cart supply is being refreshed.
Overall, the spread of COVID-19 and the incidence of HAIs has increased patient awareness of hospital cleanliness. Besides looking at how the facility’s care is rated, patients who have a choice may also want to know the hospital’s infection prevention and control record– which is partially attributable to sanitary linens.
Supply chain, other challenges
In general, hospitals and other healthcare facilities face minimal challenges in obtaining and maintaining sufficient textiles that are clean and safe. During the pandemic, some have encountered logistical obstacles - due to interruptions in the supply chain– but overall, there are many high-quality commercial healthcare linen providers and laundries that provide excellent service and support. Working with companies that have U.S.-based suppliers and facilities has helped many hospitals avoid delays and shortages in linen acquisition and care.
Sufficient training also may be an issue. Most hospitals have been dealing with the subject of infection prevention and control, and how hygienic linens support that initiative, for years, making them well versed in necessary protocols. However, facilities such as alternate surgical sites, clinics, and other satellite buildings may not have thorough textile laundering, storage, and handling policies in place. Healthcare systems and other owners of such facilities must give them the necessary tools and training to earn top ratings for cleanliness and safety.
Standards, new technologies, and fabrics enhancing safety
Several standards have been developed and adopted in the laundering and textile care industry; one example is the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) certification. The Council inspects and accredits laundries that process reusable textiles for hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. Laundries accredited by this non-profit organization must show they meet the highest standards for systems, procedures, and processes that ensure the product delivered is clean and free of dangers to patients.
In addition to standards, and best practices such as initial soil sort, there have been substantial technological advances in the healthcare laundering process. Some of these include the use of different UV technologies to insure hygienic washing and transportation of linens; water-and energy-saving equipment; and chemical use reduction. Manufacturers also are incorporating new antimicrobial fabrics and finishes into professional healthcare apparel, such as our META Scrubs®, to reduce unwanted bacteria on apparel. These options enhance infection control outcomes and will continue to raise the bar for patient and employee safety in healthcare.
So, what’s happening at Booth #2350 at The Clean Show?
Speaking of improving outcomes, we hope you’ll stop by the Encompass Group Clean Show booth (# 2350) to check out some of our laundry-friendly offerings. Our lines of Essentials™ and Synergy™ staff apparel are designed to be safe, comfortable scrubs for those delivering patient care in the hospital setting. Both lines have reversible style options and are made with durable, fade-resistant fabrics – factors that will definitely enhance your laundering and processing performance. Also, while you’re there, take a look at our UltraLinks™ spread blanket.
We hope to see you July 30th through August 2nd in Atlanta. In the meantime, take a look at all aspects of your healthcare linens and their care. Are they the best they can be with today’s heightened awareness of hygiene, cost control, and patient satisfaction?