FacilityCare Magazine

May/June 2012

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THE INSIDE EDGE cians were generalists. They did a little of everything including general mechanical, electrical, plumbing and even medical equipment repair. Over the intervening span of time this group that relied on expe- rience and the five senses to maintain utili- ty systems has become highly specialized. For example, the use of information tech- nology and specialized sensors to measure and adjust the performance of air-handling systems and the requirements for managing water quality create a need for a workforce with specialized areas of knowledge and skill. Every facility manager I know struggles with this issue. They are continuously pushed to reduce the cost of operating buildings. Energy efficiency improvement and labor cost reduction are at the front of the line. The intensity of energy use is driven by many of the technologies being introduced into clinical use. Manufacturers specify humidity and tem- perature requirements to protect electron- ics. At the same time, the electronics gen- erate significant waste heat. Specialized HVAC systems are required to service all these requirements. There is an increase in the time to manage and maintain the spe- cialized equipment. The technicians responsible for managing and maintaining the equipment need additional training, or a contract with qualified service resources is required. When technicians obtain the higher skill level, they expect higher com- pensation. They also become less available to perform more general tasks, generating the need for more facility management staff. This same scenario plays out as demands for more control of the environ- ment in ORs, treatment rooms and individ- ual patient rooms increase. There is no clear pathway to a solution for this issue. At the national level, health- care reform proposals focus on individuals taking more responsibility for maintaining their health. The assumption is this will reduce the demand for high-cost healthcare services. This is a stretch as humans in gen- eral do not seem to be interested in aggres- sively managing their health, even after they experience a health crisis. On the design side, increasing use of technology to attain LEED building designations, to meet clinical care or regulatory requirements, and to improve patient safety and other drivers add cost to the front end and/or to managing and maintaining facilities. MAY/JUNE 2012 There are many arguments made for adding technology to do one thing or another. Many are supported by "savings" that will be achieved. There seems to be very little skepticism about these claims. As long as hospitals are seduced by the idea that every generation of technology is worth having, the layers of costs that accompany it will continue to compound and the cost of healthcare will continue to increase. F Ode Keil Senior Editor, FacilityCare President, The Ode Keil Consulting Group Ode Keil is the executive director of facilities planning and operations for OSF Healthcare in Peoria, Ill. In addition, he is president of the Ode Keil Consulting Group, Inc. He can be reached at (847) 208-1173 or ecxprt@aol.com. See Advertiser Index on Page 39 facilitycare.com FACILITYCARE | 9

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