Washing out unnecessary linen costs

According to the American Reusable Textile Association, 2 to 3 percent of a hospital's budget is spent on laundry and linen services.

Hospitals nationwide have been able to shrink this percentage through a variety of cost reduction methods.

Below are among some of the best practices that can help reduce linen costs:

1. Benchmarking
Benchmarking is one of the most important aspects of cost. There are two key points to consider when benchmarking: cost and utilization.
One benchmark that explores both costs and utilization is the total cost of laundry and linen replacement, or if rented, linen rental costs vs. total patient days and/or adjusted patient days. Patient days should be less than $8.50 and adjusted patient days less than $6.50.
Breaking it down further, benchmarking for total pounds being processed will provide utilization numbers. Total pounds (clean) divided by patient days should be less than 15 and adjusted patient days less than 12.
Finally, are you paying the right price? Competition is the best way to evaluate this number. While some hospitals achieve even lower rates, the optimal cost/lb. of laundry and linen rental should be less than $0.44/lb.

2. Implement a linen committee
To truly understand linen costs, your hospital can form a Linen Committee. It will be the Linen Committee's responsibility to explore any linen related issues, as well as propose and implement solutions. The committee will also be in charge of creating and reviewing linen policies and processes such as bed linen changes, linen discard, centralized linen, OSHA contaminated linen guidelines, staff education, and linen theft control.
The committee should consist of front line works who work with linen products every day. The committee should also receive additional hospital support to meet the cost reduction goals.

3. Excess linen use
While many facilities measure linen purely by cost or loss, it is also important to measure your hospital's linen use. Below are the normal uses per inpatient day standards:

  • Flat Sheets: 1
  • Fitted Sheets: 1
  • Pillowcases: 1 to 2
  • Patient Gowns: 0 to 1
  • Bath Towels: 2 to 3
  • Washcloths: 2 to 5

4. Scrub controls

Hospitals must provide certain staff with scrubs to eliminate the risk of infections. It is important to have guidelines and controls set up to monitor your scrubs. Whether an extensive valet system or a simple policy, you can determine who in the organization is wearing scrubs.

Having systems in place can help track and benchmark scrubs that are being stolen, trashed, or even hoarded. This data combined with your controls and staff education can help you manage your linen costs.

George Malik, the CEO of Quality First Solutions, has been in the healthcare industry for the past 30 years and has saved millions for hospitals nationwide.

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