Imagine an Operation Theatre without sterilized instruments, an Intensive Care Unit without clean linen, an in-patient room without food for its occupants or a general ward without security. Seems incomplete and incompetent, doesn’t it? These ancillary services viz. Central Sterile Supply Department, Linen, Dietary, Security, etc. comprise of support services at a hospital. These services are crucial to the functioning of a hospital and without their adequate support; a hospital is incapable of imparting services to its patients.
Some of the key support services at a hospital are:
- Engineering and maintenance
- Central Sterile Supply Department (CSSD)
- Biomedical Waste Management
- Linen and Laundry
- Medical Records Department (MRD)
- Information Technology (IT) and Communication
These support services cater to the functional requirements of all the clinical and non-clinical departments of the hospital. Some of these, like pharmacy, are patient-facing; while the others work in the background. Services of most of these departments, except pharmacy and dietary, are not billed additionally to the patient. Therefore, these departments act as cost centers for hospitals.
Just like the support services are crucial to imparting services at the hospital, they have an identical impact on the hospital’s bottom-line. Therefore, efficient management of these services is of essence for effective hospital management. These cost centers are aimed at providing the necessary support to the hospital at lowest cost and with optimum resource utilization. Thus, these departments have to be efficient in their operations and management in order to meet their objectives.
Some of the guidelines mentioned below can be instilled in management of support services at hospitals to achieve greater efficiency and productivity
- Standardize processes across services
- Standardize quality and delivery benchmarks
- Use checklists and audit tools
- Define different categories of staff, their work-profile and deliverables
- Optimize staff utilization
- Hire experts (cross-industry) for the respective jobs
- Compare in-house v/s out-sourcing options
- Use technology and automation to drive operations efficiency
- Automate paper-work
- Use ticket management systems / other suitable technology to track service volume for these departments and their delivery timelines
- Inculcate a culture where support departments also feel part of the patient experience-delivery process
- Allocate adequate budget and give due importance to smooth functioning of these departments
The role of support services at a hospital cannot be undermined. However, it is often seen that, these departments are not given their due importance. Tucked away in a corner of the hospital, their operations are often ignored. This can very well dent a hole in the hospital’s pocket. Adequate attention must be paid to the functioning of these departments to ensure cost optimization. After all, every penny saved is a penny earned.