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Categories:  Developing Trust Healthcare Linens HLAC/Hygienically Clean Linen Management Rental Services and Benefits 

Step 1:  Patient safety is paramount; therefore verify that your provider’s facilities are accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC).

HLAC is an independent, non-profit organization formed in 2005 to establish the highest standards of cleanliness – and ultimately patient safety and infection prevention -- for laundries processing healthcare textiles.  Laundries achieve HLAC accreditation by demonstrating initial and ongoing compliance with these rigorous standards.  As of this writing, there are more than 3,000 independent commercial/industrial laundry businesses in the United States; 150 processing locations are HLAC accredited.  Standards for all processes that are within the control of the laundry are stipulated, assuring the highest levels of product hygienic cleanliness and safety.  Make this your initial “Go/No Go” screen. 

Step 2:  Comprehensive visit to your prospective vendor

A thorough, investigative visit to your prospective vendor’s plant is essential.  Your visiting team should consist of the key personnel who will interface with and evaluate the long-term performance of the vendor. 

  • Make some general observations as a place to start.  Is the plant environment clean and orderly?  Is it well lit? Studies show that a critical building block of employee satisfaction is a clean, safe work environment.  Does the work flow and floor activity look orderly or frenzied?  Are there any noticeably unsafe situations or practices evident?
  • (The Laundry Assessment Checklist, published by the Association for Linen Management in 2014, is free tool that can help you plan and carry out an inspection.  Get a copy at www.almnet.org.)  The vendor must demonstrate that it is capable of consistently delivering hygienically-clean textiles over the long term in accordance with its HLAC accreditation and your expectations.
  • Consider breakout sessions and departmental tours.  Follow up on any areas of concern.  
  • Get references.  You should be prepared to specify the types of customers you would like to speak with for references.  Be proactive in requesting particular references that will have the most relevance to your evaluation and future business.  Do not necessarily just accept the references offered.

Step 3:  How does the proposed vendor measure up on those organizational attributes and values that are most important to your organization?

This step is designed to highlight long-term compatibility.  If the two organizations have basic incompatibilities in culture, business philosophies, or ethical standards for example, the risk of developing divergent outlooks and goals over time increases greatly.  When the macro views of the two organizations are aligned, each is better able to understand the other’s position and is more amenable to compromise in pursuit of the win/win result.  Performance and expectations will be  defined in an RFP and purchase contract, but the deeper issues of compatible outlook and operations may not become known unless you inquire about them.  As the relationship matures, a solid foundation of business compatibility will minimize time wasted on dispute details and contract administration issues. 

Step 4: Conduct an effective reference check

By the time companies begin to check references, too many are satisfied to get a quick confirmation of an already-established judgment and seldom probe beyond cursory, general inquiries.  You have made the effort to acquire more than a canned list of satisfied customers from your prospective vendor.  Now follow up by inquiring in those areas of most concern to you.  Plan your scope and direction of questioning in advance.  Make your questions open-ended; probe and follow up.  Consider talking to multiple levels of responsibility within a large, diverse organization.  Do not be afraid to ask the tough question.  Make sure that your questioning covers any circumstance, situation or capability that is important to you. 

Step 5: Evaluate trustworthiness

None of us has a crystal ball, and the contract that eliminates the need for trust has never been written.  Consequently, the entire process of any business due diligence check – including qualifying a new vendor – ultimately results in acting upon some established level of trust.  Consider Step 5 as the culmination of a fact-finding, trust-building process.  Do you feel that the vendor conducts its business as has been represented to you?  Let us review Steps 1 through 4 from the perspective of developing trust:

Step 1:  HLAC accreditation is additional attestation by an independent, third-party that the vendor’s documented processes will provide healthcare linens of the highest hygienic cleanliness.  It is the elite standard of trust for patient safety.

Step 2:  A must do.  The best opportunity for first-hand evaluation of operations and determining if they are in line with stated practices.  Nothing reveals trustworthiness more than this personal interaction.       

Step 3:  We are more likely to trust companies with which we share core values and beliefs.  Look behind the numbers and the obvious for a glimpse of common concerns, philosophy and long-term compatibility.

Step 4:  What is it that one expects a company to do to deserve our trust:  First, to do what it promises to do; and second, to listen and resolve misunderstandings fairly and quickly.  How does the prospective vendor measure up here?

Step 5:  Do you trust the vendor to conduct its business as has been represented to you?

 

Follow this easy five-step process to build trust and assure that vendor performance meets your expectations.


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