Infection Control: It All Starts With Textiles

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Paris_Cover ArticleBy Peter Grundberg

Healthcare systems committed to managing risk associated with infection control need to make sure their textiles are laundered using the highest standards for processing healthcare textiles.  By doing so, they can provide a greater level of safety for employees and a stronger experience for their patients.  Consequently, healthcare systems prefer to partner with healthcare linen management companies dedicated to obtaining healthcare laundry’s highest standard for quality and safety:  Accreditation by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC).

Why is HLAC accreditation important when choosing a laundry provider?  It basically comes down to the level of additional risk mitigation healthcare systems require from their service partners and how serious they are in establishing a smooth and consistent program of clean textiles that adhere to federal regulations and guidelines for handling, processing, and transporting healthcare textiles.

HLAC is a non-profit provider of independent, third-party inspections for commercial laundries, verifying they meet industry’s highest standards for processing healthcare linen and garments, including safety, quality, and training procedures.  Through a collaborative effort, HLAC developed its standards with input from several groups, including the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APICE); Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Association for Healthcare Environmental Services (AHE); International Association for Healthcare Textile Management (IAHTM); Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA); American Reusable Textiles Association (ARTA); Association for Linen Management (ALM); and the Veterans Administration (VA).

 The Highest Standards for Processing Linen and Garments  

Healthcare laundries that pass their HLAC inspection receive a three-year accreditation. The principal benefit of accreditation to the healthcare customer is verification that their laundry provider meets the industry’s highest standards for processing healthcare textiles, which translates into confidence that employees and end users — the patients — are receiving clean uniforms and bed linens.

During a recent interview with Paris Healthcare Linen, Pennsylvania’s largest independent healthcare laundry, the benefits of HLAC accreditation were discussed with senior management who reinforced the value of accreditation.  “Many hospitals and nursing homes take the accreditation very seriously, especially when evaluating a linen management partner,” said David Stern, President and CEO of Paris Companies.  “At Paris, we pride ourselves on taking the right steps to ensure that all our healthcare facilities have the best quality and safety measures in place, for both employees and our customers.  For this reason, we make HLAC accreditation a regular part of our quality & safety systems.”  Paris Healthcare Linen Service has two plants that service the Pittsburgh area, and all Paris plants are HLAC accredited.

Accreditation: A Commitment to Exceed Expectations

Preparation for accreditation is not a quick and simple procedure. It takes several months and requires extensive coordination from numerous people within a company.  “We have a cross-functional team that works diligently to secure and maintain the HLAC accreditation, including all plant managers, regional managers, and shift leaders,” said Randy Rosetti, Vice President of Paris Healthcare Linen Services.  “In order to succeed, everyone has to work together.”

Paris has made it an ongoing operational goal to have all plants HLAC certified and has received the three-year accreditation for all processing facilities a second consecutive time, thus demonstrating the company’s serious commitment to the healthcare industry, the quality expected by customers, and the overall contribution to creating a positive patient experience. “One of the key aspects of receiving accreditation is to have all quality, safety and training procedures written down and documented,” says Rosetti. “Our division comptroller worked extensively to compile all the necessary information, so when we get inspected, we are able to demonstrate we have effectively communicated all the proper procedures to our hospital partners. It is always a team effort because the required procedures to operate as an accredited laundry are very strict, but in the end, always worth it for our partners and their peace of mind.”

HLAC Accredited Launderers: A Preferred Healthcare Partner

“Any healthcare system or individual facility interested in outsourcing their laundry should demand a company with HLAC accreditation,” said Joe Shough, Director of Business Development and Service Systems for Paris Healthcare Linen Services. “Outsourcing laundry operations has become the overwhelming trend for hospitals and nursing homes due to the associated savings it produces, not to mention the benefits it provides by allowing healthcare facilities to focus capital on their core competency, and free-up valuable space for revenue generation.”

“Many healthcare facilities are seeking ways to help mitigate their exposure to Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) while reducing operating expenses and outsourcing laundry operations often becomes an appealing option,” explains Shough. “By choosing an accredited laundry, customers can rest assured their laundry is being processed according to the industry’s highest available standards in safety and quality.”

Shough adds, “One reason hospitals love using HLAC accredited laundry facilities is because it takes away some of the pressure associated with governmental regulatory inspections. Whenever a regulatory official finds out the laundry is HLAC accredited, inspections always seem to go more smoothly. If a facility is contracting with an accredited laundry, regulatory officials know that an unbiased third-party has provided inspections and independently found the healthcare laundry organization has strict operational guidelines in place and being followed to meet the highest standards for processing healthcare textiles.

Laundries located in healthcare facilities might find it more challenging to achieve HLAC accreditation because hospitals and nursing homes are designed primarily to address patient healthcare and not necessarily to process their own laundry.  “An HLAC accredited facility is designed and operated to make sure it meets or exceeds HLAC requirements,” Shough explains. “For example, each of the plants at Paris includes a barrier wall between soiled and clean linen areas. In addition, we look at airflow and make sure air doesn’t flow from soiled to clean linen areas. This protects the integrity of the linen we send to our customers, and employees working in soiled linen areas always wear protective apparel.”

More and more hospitals are experiencing the value and cost savings that occur as they outsource their laundry operations to an HLAC accredited laundry specialist.  By doing so, hospitals are also able to mitigate their exposure to HAIs, divest themselves of activities that add little or no value to their operations, and concentrate on their core business — saving lives and providing a positive patient experience.

Article also contributed by Peter Gruneberg, Principal at Strategic Marketing Professionals LLC, an independent marketing consultancy for healthcare textile providers and can be reached via email at pgrundberg.smpros@gmail.com.

For more information on HLAC Accreditation, contact HLAC at 855.277.HLAC (4522) or online at www.hlacnet.org.

Paris Healthcare Linen Services is a full service HLAC accredited laundry partner with operations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.  For more information, contact Paris at 800.832.2306 or online at www.parishealthcarelinen.com.