Can Infection Control be a Profit Center for a Medical Organization?: by OUTFOX Prevention

posted Nov 29, 2011, 9:49 AM by Todd Fox   [ updated Sep 24, 2016, 8:16 AM ]

In this article we are discussing whether your Infection Control Department is a profit or cost center.  We also discuss how a hospital or clinic can monetize infection control.


What is a Profit Center in a Medical Organization?  

In a general sense, departments in your medical organization can be split into two groups, profit centers or cost centers.  Profit centers are those departments or individuals that bring in more money than they incur.  In hospitals for example, profit centers are doctors, physical therapy units, certain types of medical equipment, treatments and so forth.  Profit centers draw business in the door and perform functions that make money for the organization.  Cost centers no do not bring money into the organization but are often necessary.

Is Infection Control a Profit Center?

Unfortunately, in most organizations infection control is not a money-making department.  This is not being said to imply that infection control is less important than profit centers, but when times are tough there are less resources and focus given to cost centers.  There is no doubt that many of you have been in an organization while it was facing profitability issues.  What areas or positions were cut first? Often it is the employees from cost centers or low results areas.  Examples of cut staff may include: seasonal staff, assistants, office personnel, environmental cleaning staff, Infection Preventionists and so forth.

How Can Infection Control Become More of a profit Center and Secure a Solid Position in Your Organization?

The words "become more of a profit center" were added rather than "become a profit center" to the question above because there are some inherent duties of Infection Preventionists that will not likely create a profit.  Although we will suggest profit making ideas, Infection Preventionists should be more geared to SAVE money through prevention.
Prevention of HAIs (Hospital-Acquired Infections), illness and disease outbreaks, claims and so forth decreases money spent by the organization.  Prove to leadership that your infection control program will save money, opening up the organization to more profit, and your team will not be raided during the next company layoff.  The following is a list of money-making or money-saving ideas that can be investigated by your organization and possibly implemented:

1.    -Quantify the costs of employee absences (entry level to executive). Quantifying this cost helps set employee health goals to save the organization money.
           -Include the cost of wage replacement (possible overtime pay for replacement)
           -Include the cost of increased stress on the manager or the rest of team when someone is out (schedule issues, etc.)
           -include the cost of mistakes (increased work load, cross duties, etc.)

2.    -Teach employees effective hygiene principles for use while at work, play AND home.  Many people carry good infection control habits into their lives outside of work, but you should constantly be reminding them of the importance of staying healthy.  Patient safety is important but so is employee safety.

3.    -Explain to management how participating and perceiving infection control as a “money-maker” will help increase the effort of all team players.

4.    -Compile hygiene packets that can be sold to patients, family members or visitors to prepare a clean environment when the patient returns home.  These packets can include basic hygiene materials, first aid elements, instructional manual and other items that will help the patient recoup with less issues.  Run the payers’ credit cards or collect checks at the front desk since the capabilities are already there for copayments.

5.    -Offer short paid classes for patients, family members or visitors.  These classes would highlight best practices for hygiene, sanitation, environmental cleaning and so forth.  Most people are not versed in the best practices that can help decrease recovery time, reduce suffering and create a positive experience with treatments.  These classes would be especially valuable when extreme hygiene is needed (i.e. vulnerable patients or conditions).  Classes can be weekly to not overburden staff members who volunteer as instructors.

6.    -Align the effort and work of the team members in your organization (see the OUTFOX Mindset)
           -Engage the employees from entry level to executive
           -Create an organization wide campaign that teaches that EVERY employee has a role in infection control
           -Provide reminders in every communication (i.e. the FOX Symbol) 

7.    -Introduce software that would reduce the number of employee work hours (reduces the amount of time tracking, reporting, etc.) that are required to record compliance numbers.

8.    -Celebrate successes within the organization.  For example, celebrate low outbreak numbers, high hand hygiene compliance, goal accomplishments and so forth.  Celebration (rewards and incentives) costs may turn out may be negligible if it improves the attitudes of employees in regards to infection control.  For, motivated employees make a difference and will stay around longer, which helps reduce costs associated with employee turnover).
You need to be cautious that your efforts to increase organizational profit through infection control will or do not come across as too "sales" like.  There is a balance that needs to be maintained in regards to profits.  Your goal for profit should also still allow you to increase or sustain customer satisfaction.  The last thing you want is for customer satisfaction to sag for minimal profits.  Your plan should have customer satisfaction in the forefront of all decisions.  

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