NEW ORLEANS — Reducing losses of scrubs and patient linens is of major concern for many medical facilities, according to an educational session, Gone Before Their Time: Reducing the Loss of Patient Linen and Scrubs, presented by the Association for Linen Management (ALM) on the Clean Show’s opening day.
Moderator Janice Larson, with Encompass Group, and panelists Mary Ann Curtis, Innovative Products Achievement (IPA); Eva Granado, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas; and Liz Remillong, Crothall Laundry Services, focused on true losses—from theft, trashing, or being taken out of circulation prematurely—rather than artificial losses, those where the items are simply not circulating for reasons such as stockpiles, overstocking or hoarding.
Being able to measure the loss is paramount, panel members say, and benchmarking is key. Remillong says there are several options for measuring loss, including a soil-to-clean ratio, a count by specific item, and soil weight per item. Her company also uses bar coding and RFID counting.
Granado uses all of the methods except for bar coding. Her facility has had good luck with a linen management software system as well, though she says it goes back to the people factor. “We have to make sure our staff puts in accurate numbers. And, we conduct annual inventories.”
A new emergency department at Granado’s hospital is going entirely to automation, and she thinks they will see reduced scrubs and linen loss.
Doing a physical count is helpful, Curtis says, and good data is essential and empowering.
All five experts says that benchmarking is extremely important, particularly when it comes to showing staff members where other facilities are experiencing their highest rates of loss. Curtis suggests starting with a quarterly physical inventory, and looking at usage by activity and by department.
“Benchmarking is critical,” Remillong says. “The first thing to do is to lessen the cost of linen loss. One way to do that is by getting more turns per piece than what you are currently getting.”
Granado says reports and benchmarking are essential to back up the data of linen loss, in order to prove to the staff about what is going on, as well as helping to get the backing and cooperation of staff and upper management.
STOPPING THE LOSS
Education and awareness, automation, and data collection are among the best ways of stopping the loss of patient linens and scrubs, according to the panelists.
They all agree that education is top of the list. “If your facility does not have an active program in place,” Remillong says, “the staff is not aware of what’s going on. Just talking about it helps the loss numbers go down. Most people don’t know the cost involved. Talking about it, putting a dollar amount on it, makes a difference.”
“A strong linen committee helps with communication, awareness and education,” Curtis says. She suggests going to departmental billing, rather than the cost of replacement linen and garments coming from a central office, and she says an automation program helps lessen loss considerably.
Larson says that, with all the new regulations out there concerning bloodborne pathogens, communicating the safety factor will likely resonate more with hospital staff members used to taking their scrubs home.
Granado offered a somewhat humorous means of lowering the loss of scrubs – many of her hospital’s personnel would wear home the garments, so the staff implemented a program in which security issued tickets or citations to those wearing the hospital’s scrubs as they left the building. “Bring back the scrubs with the ticket, and they don’t have to pay a fine,” she says. An amnesty program also is quite successful, she says.
Overall, the panelists agree that automation is likely to be the future solution to linen and scrub loss, and that while the initial cost of the equipment can be a deterrent, the eventual cost savings, plus the goodwill of staff members, can make the program worthwhile.