Elevators play an important part in any building, but they are especially critical in compliant hospitals and medical office buildings. Healthcare facilities rely on elevators to move people and equipment that provide care for patients.
Because of this central role, a healthcare facility needs to ensure its elevators are operating safely, with downtime occurring only for scheduled repairs and maintenance. When elevator performance is compromised, it creates an unstable and unsafe situation. Healthcare facility managers can implement best practices to ensure their elevators are operating at a peak performance.
Proper elevator maintenance allows the equipment to operate efficiently, extends its performance life, maximizes uptime, and minimizes repairs. An elevator maintenance agreement or service agreement gives managers the comfort that their equipment is being properly maintained.
Still, managers need to beware because the contract might be a standard boilerplate elevator service provider agreement. While it might seem sufficient, it can lack key performance indicators and service level agreements that meet healthcare facilities’ unique needs.
These contracts also might be missing important components, including proper response times, parts exclusions, routine service required, obsolesce clauses, testing requirements and inspection coverage. They might even omit criteria required by Joint Commission, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and other regulatory authorities.
In addition to having an effective elevator maintenance or service agreement, managers need to monitor elevator service. Record keeping is important for capturing what is happening to all equipment throughout its life cycle.
Maintaining accurate records is something managers should do themselves because too often elevator companies do not give the records to the facility as needed for inspections, maintenance control programs, reporting, budget, capital planning, and other areas of a facility that need the information. Codes also require that records are readily available.
Managers can use numerous approaches to proper record keeping, including tweaking existing systems or processes. Whatever the current situation, it is worthwhile from a regulatory and risk management standpoint that these systems for record keeping are in place.
A combination of proper maintenance and a service agreement with terms, conditions and measurable key performance indicators written based on the requirements of the facility will assist in effective elevator performance.
The facility should also make sure a technician is on staff who can maintain elevators because the equipment might be older and require specific knowledge and experience. Some elevators also are specialized or proprietary and can only be serviced by a certain elevator company.
One key for maximizing performance is installing equipment that is non-proprietary and can be serviced by many elevator service providers. These installations can happen when putting elevators in a new building or modernizing existing elevators.
It is common for general contractors to install elevators they have specified in the past. This convenience benefits the general contractor but is not always in the best interests of the healthcare facility. Once the elevator is installed, the facility is left with equipment that is commonly not aligned with the other elevators at their facilities.
Equipment that is beneficial to the general contractor can be detrimental to the facility because it can cause unnecessary and unaffordable operating expenses. In many cases, the elevators installed might not be aligned with the current elevator service provider agreement and might be missing turnover language that hinders elevator performance.
When installing or modernizing elevators, managers need ensure all departments in the organization involved with elevators — facilities, operations, purchasing, development and construction — take a cohesive approach.
One method that has proven to maximize elevator performance is an elevator audit. This process can help align the actual performance of the elevators with the requirements of the healthcare facility. A facility should conduct an audit at least every three to four years to determine the performance, service being received, and areas that need improvement, as well as to address elevator-related concerns that might arise.
An audit gives managers valuable information needed to maintain elevator operational efficiency, as well as to minimize unnecessary repairs and minimize callbacks and break-fix maintenance. An audit also reviews every aspect of the equipment, giving managers data to make long- and short-term decisions.
If elevators are not maintained properly, they can cripple a healthcare facility. Managers and technicians must make sure that they follow elevator best practices in order to avoid elevator problems. A maintenance service agreement — not just a template service agreement from the service provider — that aligns with the requirements of the facility also will produce enormous benefits. Maintaining accurate, code-compliant records from this maintenance agreement is vital.
When installing elevators, technicians must ensure their actions — including preventive maintenance — align with the facility portfolio. An elevator audit is a proven approach for decreasing unnecessary costs, streamlining service, eliminating downtime, mitigating risk and aligning a healthcare facility’s systemwide needs. Doing so can yield performance and operational efficiency and reduce costs. These steps can enable managers and facilities to maximize elevator performance quickly.
Andy Kohl is an elevator consultant with The Elevator Consultants (TEC), an independent elevator consulting firm specializing in vertical transportation analysis. With more than 30 years of experience in the elevator industry, Kohl has the technical and business acumen to advocate for healthcare facilities teams when making decisions about one of the largest capital expenses in buildings.