3 Ways Technology Can Benefit Facilities Teams

By investing in people supported by innovative technology, facilities will be better equipped to meet evolving challenges.

By Alison Flynn Gaffney, Contributing Writer

Facilities management teams rely on a host of technological tools to mitigate compliance risk, advance operational goals and improve the caregiver and team member experience. As with most technologies, however, these ever-evolving tools require consistent monitoring, optimization and investment to maximize returns. 

Just as updating diagnostic tools, medical devices and electronic health records is necessary to advance patient care, the facilities management landscape demands continuously elevating novel tools and technologies to meet evolving needs. Over the past decade, many healthcare facilities have migrated to cloud-based maintenance management systems that boost efficiency and convenience with on-demand access to maintenance histories and enhanced digital tools for facilities compliance documentation. 

These technologies also help facilitate reporting via critical asset data and deliver invaluable business intelligence. New smart building management platforms that automatically monitor and optimize HVAC and lighting systems improve overall energy efficiency, thermal comfort, and air quality, which are directly linked to enhanced patient satisfaction. 

Still, these systems are only as good as the individuals operating them. They require comprehensive training and proper succession planning as significant portions of the workforce are either set to retire or have already left the healthcare field post-pandemic, which is a critical pain point for many healthcare organizations. As private equity investments continue to flow into healthcare systems and as merger and acquisition activity picks up, healthcare organizations will be challenged to streamline disparate technology systems into a unified, comprehensive operation. 

Whether an organization needs to overhaul an outdated system or amplify existing tools, healthcare systems can experience significant return on investment by focusing their spend on the following areas. 

Streamlining compliance with digital solutions 

Ensuring compliance with regulatory standards and obtaining accreditation are paramount concerns for every facilities management team. Yet many teams rely on inefficient, paper-based workflows that might unwittingly create higher compliance risks. 

In a digital-first world where everything is expected on-demand, relying on outdated models or paper records can trigger a frantic rush to compile documents for even the most straightforward regulatory or accreditation authority request. Meanwhile, entrusting the responsibility for compliance documentation to one facilities team member poses a significant risk, especially if that person retires or takes a different role.  

Investing in specialized compliance software and mobile tools simplifies the process by digitizing compliance documentation. Automatic notifications for compliance tasks and deadlines keep records organized and accessible for accreditation surveys and inspections. Seamlessly integrated maintenance management systems allow facilities teams to stay on top of complex codes and standards necessary for maintaining accreditation. They also prompt the team to complete and document tasks efficiently, streamlining work orders and proactively identifying potential risks. 

Enhancing efficiency and cutting expenses 

Optimizing performance and reducing costs are essential goals in healthcare facilities, especially given the costly nature of critical building systems and specialized equipment. Instead of pushing equipment to its breaking point, which inevitably happens under emergency circumstances and capital constraints, forward-thinking organizations are adopting proactive maintenance approaches that save time and money in the long-term. 

For example, data collected from specialized sensors that continuously monitor equipment performance indicators, including heat, noise, friction and vibration, can automatically feed into software and dashboards, enabling building engineers to identify potential malfunctions. Predictive maintenance enabled by technology can reduce deferred maintenance costs, prevent equipment failures, extend equipment life and lower capital expenses, potentially saving millions of dollars. 

Data-driven operational and capital expense management technology also can centralize vendor management within one system, automating work orders and enabling real-time budget tracking. Customers that put a mobile maintenance management platform in place reduced facilities spending by an average of 10 percent and saved $3.3 million in facilities management costs over three years, according to a Forrester study. 

Energy management technology platforms also are an indispensable asset for financial optimization, assisting healthcare facilities in benchmarking energy expenses against other hospitals or industry standards while simultaneously identifying opportunities to cut costs. 

Empowering facilities teams 

Many facilities managers see their work as an extension of the patient care team, supplying comfortable, safe and clean environments that affect patient wellbeing and outcomes. Investing in technology to support facilities managers’ efforts not only improves their efficiency. It also boosts workplace satisfaction. 

While nearly one-half of healthcare executives recognize the importance of facilities teams and support their professional development, burdening staff with outdated paper-based work or technology detracts from their core responsibilities tied to patient care.  

As healthcare workforces undergo generational shifts and labor shortages, adopting up-to-date technology can help departments attract and retain staff. The success of these investments depends on the organization's willingness to train employees and maintain tools and systems that make life easier for staff instead of creating more work. 

Embracing technology and training can reduce the risk of knowledge loss as veteran facilities professionals retire, automatically capturing critical processes and data and ensuring essential knowledge remains as team members depart. 

Preventing the loss of expertise related to compliance processes, equipment maintenance and building system histories is crucial for facilities management teams to meet the healthcare industry’s evolving demands. By investing in people who are supported by innovative technology, facilities teams will be better equipped to meet evolving challenges while paving the way for a more efficient and safer future. 

Alison Flynn Gaffney, FACHE, is president of the healthcare division, work dynamics, for JLL. 

October 4, 2023

Topic Area: Information Technology

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