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Changing faces: how health care facilities can cope with the challenges of the next decade.


How health care facilities can cope with the challenges of the next decade.

URBAN HEALTH care facilities and other service industries, such as lodging, transportation, education, retail merchandising, food service, and banking, now face their greatest challenge in a decade that will be filled with challenges. Across the country, health care facilities and their service industry counterparts are closing their doors because they are unable to compete, show a profit, or demonstrate their value to the people they serve.

The reasons for closures in the health care arena are painfully evident. As Medicare changes its requirements and we see the increase in patients requiring long-term critical care due to prolonged life expectancy or AIDS, we also encounter a financial climate that promotes quantity of procedures (to generate revenue) over quality of care and service. These changes also encourage, if not require, the development of managed health care plans and large health care delivery systems.

In other service industries, the language may be different, but the scenario is the same. American health care and service industries are in crisis and are managing in a traditional reactive mode. While this situation affects all managers in service industries, it most profoundly affects managers in support services and cost centers, such as security and loss prevention departments in health care.

These managers have learned to fear the phrases "full-time equivalent per adjusted occupied bed" and "decreasing length of stay" just as their peers in lodging fear "declining occupancy rates," educators and student housing managers fear "declining enrollments and higher dormitory and vacancy rates," and retailers dread "static inventories."

To make money, you must spend money. But with shrinking budgets for capital expenditures the crisis is felt not only in service industries but also in law enforcement, government, and our communities.

In health care and other service industries, a trend exists toward large-scale mergers or takeovers to build megasystems. Managers of security or loss prevention departments in stand-alone businesses or those who have survived a merger into a larger system know that to survive--let alone compete for those scarce resources--innovative, creative, and caring ways must be found to deliver services to customers.

To accomplish this task, we need to find new ways to be revenue generators rather than cost centers. We must do this while establishing a balance of high-tech systems support and line staff support that will allow us to succeed in our mission.

As security or loss prevention managers, we must also cope with the increasing violence in the workplace. The question is, How? How do we protect the physical and material assets of our companies and communities? How do we care for our human assets--our employees, visitors, patients, guests, and customers? These are assets that give life--and profit--to our communities. These are assets we must protect and nurture.

The wide range of activities that go on in an urban medical center is a perfect example of these challenges. Within its boundaries health care professionals are treating a range of people who need help--including victims of domestic violence, drug abusers, and the terminally ill. Frequently, these professionals and line security staff are faced with life-threatening situations that involve all types of weapons, whether they are guns or contaminated medical instruments or fluids.

To deal with the needs these facilities face today and those that they will

encounter as we move into the 21st century, a new role for security should be developed. The role, which challenges key assumptions used by decision makers for decades, is a dual focus. First, health care security departments and other private security operations should be expanded into the arena of community policing. These operations would provide administrative, tracking, and evaluation tools to measure--and demonstrate--the value of cost center programs such as security and loss prevention.

Second, employers, law enforcement, and the government should be more involved as caretakers for those who use, consume, purchase, or rely on their services.

Our challenge as security managers in any service industry is to provide timely, appropriate, efficient, and cost-effective service to our users. We can do this job and still be competitive and profitable. We can provide not only baseline services but also service amenities. In other words, we can make a difference in what we do with high-quality caring and creative programs and services while tending to the bottom-line requirement of profitability. Now is the time to translate these and other ideas into practice for the 1990s and into the next century.

Joan M. Henick, CPP, is a private consultant and was formerly the director of security and parking services at Good Samaritan Hospital and Medical Center in Portland, OR. Henick currently serves on the ASIS Standing Committee on Health Care Services and is also the 1989-90 vice president of the Crime Prevention Association of Oregon.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article
Author:Henick, Joan M.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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