Support Services: The Tipping Point in a Hospital’s Culture of Hospitality

Every role in the delivery of care has a mission – from those who help our patients heal, to those who feed and nourish them or keep our facilities safe and free from infection.


Of all the ways we serve, it’s easy to overlook the vital role support services has in the delivery of care, and how it can truly be a tipping point in creating and maintaining a culture of hospitality.


When we talk about excellence in hospitality, companies such as Chick-fil-A or Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts can come to mind. These are organizations that have built a reputation for delivering high-quality support services and customer service time and time again.


In healthcare, we are dealing with a range of people who depend on us. That includes patients, their families, hospital visitors, and of course our fellow employees – nurses, doctors and clinicians. All of these interactions are crucial in fostering an atmosphere of hospitality.


A patient can be “touched” by 25 different people during their stay at our facilities, meaning they will have dozens of points of contact from admission, to surgery, to post-operative care, discharge and follow up.


It goes without saying that we should all be providing the highest level of hospitality to the patients we are privileged to serve.


But when we talk about the important role of support services, we also includeeveryone else around us within the facility. Our co-workers who interact with our guests, the doctors and nurses who -- day in and day out -- provide care for vulnerable patients.


All of these important caregivers contribute to a culture of hospitality. That’s why it’s imperative that, as support services professionals,we are engaged, educated and ready to go. Everyday we need to be positive and supportive and level up those around us whom we interact with.


Our associates need to be secure that if they go the extra mile, and take time away from their duties to help a patient in need to make sure they are cared for, they won’t have a fear of reprimand.


It’s all about the interactions we share – saying those important phrases like please, thank you and my pleasure – and the actions we take that keep a culture of hospitality alive. Helping a lost patient find their destination or comforting someone who might seem distraught.


A hospital is like a little city, where we’re all serving the patients, but also interacting with each other. That’s where our culture is so important: How do we treat the physician’s in the doctor’s lounge? How do we treat the EVS worker in the patient room? Through respect and mutual dignity,a positive culture is truly manifested.


When a culture of hospitality is present, it’s easily noticeable to visitors and staff alike. The culture is shining. It’s like going on vacation and staying at a Four Seasons; the vibe is there. You can truly feel the difference inside a hospitable organization.


In a hospital, you can feel the difference just walking down the hall, when employees are engaged and keep hospitality top of mind. Whether a coworker or a guest, employees follow the 10-second rule;they get close and say “good morning” and make eye contact.


Hospitality is based on simple things, but when you start adding them all up, it creates and maintains that positive culture.


It starts with modeling this behavior in your hospital or health system. If the CEO walks down the hallway and doesn’t acknowledge other associates, only saying “hello” to the doctors but not to the EVS worker, that’s an issue.


You have to not only provide education and training for your staff, but as a leader, you must also “talk the talk” and “walk the walk.”


When you have leadership who truly does this and puts it into action, it becomes infectious across the entire organization. Encourageparticipation through incentive programs – awards, recognitions or prizes – that will instill a desire for staff to employ and maintain a high level of hospitality.


When you’ve made a culture of hospitality a priority in your facilities, it will be a differentiator for your organization. Your hospital will be known as the “nice hospital” in the community. Patients will tell their family and friends about their welcoming experience and word will spread.


And it’s important that this culture of hospitality be implemented across all points of access for visitors and employees equally.


One of the most crucial points of access is your Emergency Department. Many organizations call the ED your “front door.” It’s a revolving door of patients, visitors and relatives who are at their most emotionally and physically vulnerable. Organizations need those hospitable and empathetic associates in these ED roles, lending a sympathetic ear during long wait times, catering to patient’s needs and providing support.


As someone who has worked across multiple health systems in a variety of support services and leadership roles, I’ve seen this work firsthand. In nearly 30 years, I have served as a dietician and a chef, a department director and regional leader. When hospitality is kept top of mind in an organization, all caregivers shine.


A happy nurse means a happy patient. A happy EVS worker means a cleaner room. A happy cook means better meals and a welcoming cafeteria.


Any worker, if they come to work and feel secure in a positive environment, will naturally be more hospitable, which in turn boosts patient satisfaction.


When patient satisfaction goes up, care goes up, which increases productivity, profitability and reimbursements. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.


With a culture of hospitality in place, as the water rises, so does the boat.


Support services, if done right, will become engrained in the DNA of the hospital and, in turn, have a positive effect on every interaction within the organization.


Don’t Break the Piggy Bank: Maximize Savings Opportunities through GPOs

In today’s highly competitive healthcare landscape, hospitals and health systems are understandably looking for any opportunity to lower costs.


Group Purchasing Organizations are one of many tools health systems can utilize to lower procurement costs and overall expenses.


The entities received a boost in 1986 with an endorsement from the U.S. Congress, recognizing GPOs as a powerful resource to create competition and lower costs in the medical supply market.


In the decades since, GPOs have become big business in the healthcare industry with more than 70 percent of medical supplies being procured through their contracts, creatinglarge savings opportunities for hospitals and health systems.


A 2018 cost savings analysis prepared for the Healthcare Supply Chain Association found GPOs save the healthcare industry an estimated $34.1 billion each year, a majority seen in hospitals and senior care facilities.


The study found a large portion of annual savings related to supplies with GPOs cutting costs for supply purchasing by as much as 13 percent or more.


Those savings can up add quickly when one considers supply costs make up about 15 percent of hospital expenses on average, according to a 2019 hospital supply study, while some surgery-intensive hospitals can spend as much 30 or 40 percent on supplies.


Utilizing a GPO can help reduce costs on many of the supplies and services imperative to running a hospital or healthcare facility. These can include food supplies such as meats, dairy, vegetables and fruits; janitorial supplies, paper goods and disposable items. Additionally, GPOs may offerdiscounted rates forvalue-added operating services such as travel, rental, equipment repair, temp labor, and a range of medical supplies for patient care through their own internal supplier partnerships.


That is why it is important to have a deep understanding of the relationship with your organization’s GPO and the savings you are either receiving or potentially missing out on.


As a healthcare consultant,I have worked with many hospitals and organizations throughout many yearsto find the best GPO partners and contracts to meet their needs. One of the first questions I ask my clients is “When was the last time you looked at your GPO and their pricing?”


It’s a good rule of thumb to review your GPO agreements every three to five years to re-evaluate what the company is doing for your organization. It is imperative that your GPO is offering a flexible program that is tailored to meets organization’s goals.


Consider the overall value you are receiving: Your organization might pay a fee to be a member of that GPO, but is the value appropriatein comparison to the costs you are paying? Couldyour hospital be missing out on valuable incentivesor rebates?


For those healthcare systems which serve as regional leaders, operating several facilities in different markets, there may be opportunities to act as your own GPO and leverage economies of scale to lower purchasing costs across the board.


At the KESTGO Group, our expert teams can visit with an organization, evaluate the existing GPO relationships in place and look for opportunities for cost-savings on supportive services. We can tailor a program to best suit your organization’s purchasing needs and financial goals.


It is our expertise which helps clients determine if they are getting what they were promised by their GPO partners. We recommend healthcare organizations take a deeper look at what they are getting from their GPOs and KESTGO is here to help ease that process.


Equally as important as procuring competitive pricing on supplies is maximizing operational efficiencies on those goods once they come through the door.


A GPO can help you find the best prices on chicken or produce, but it’s crucial to have the tested production guidance to make sure you are optimizing every dollar from those products in your hospital. It’s not only vital to get a great price on food, but it’s just as imperative to make sure you aren’t wasting it in the kitchen.


KESTGO’s consultants can help guide healthcare organizations by sharing expertise and resources to help maximize operational efficiencies and ensure the best value for procurement of goods and services throughout your facilities.


As the marketplace constantly evolves,there are always new opportunities for cost savings on the horizon.


In the last several years, we have seen new trends in the GPO landscape as organizations pull away from national entities,creating agreements among a smaller number of hospitals to commit a high percentage (as much as 85 percent) of purchases through regional GPOs, which are able to obtain lower prices than their national counterparts.


Additionally, arecent study by the Supply Chain Association found that overall hospitals saw as much as 17 percent savings through utilizing GPO contracts across three major supply categories: Medical-surgical, pharmaceuticals and laboratory.


While the percentage of hospitals with compliance levels of 60 percent or more was highest for commodity items (89.1%) and pharmaceuticals (84.9%), but much lower for PPIs (32.4%) and capital equipment (19.9%), representing an opportunity for potential future savings, according to the study.


By creating a GPO partnership that best suits a healthcare system’s needs, or even taking the path of creating a regional GPO or partnering with other organizations, there exist many pathways to reduce overall costs to the benefit of your bottom line.


From procurement to production and distribution, our expert team can help you navigate complicated contracts and partnerships to find the best GPO program,one tailor-made to maximize cost-saving opportunities for your organization.


We will help you decide which contractor is best for your supply needs and develop an individual program to maximize your operational efficiencies so you can focus on what matters most – providing high-quality care to the communities you serve.


On The Road And Testing Positive: My Experience With Covid-19

It began with a scratchy throat.

I had just come back from a weekend hike through the mountains, and the hillside’s flowers were in full bloom. It must have been allergies, I thought. On Monday, I went to work at the hospital in Washington State where I have been serving as a health care leader the past several months.


As a health care leader with KESTGO, I often serve as an interim administrative leader in hospitals far from home, away from my family. During these long stays, the hospital staff become my family. Since the coronavirus outbreak, we have implemented the proper safety protocols, including 100 percent mask compliance, routine hand washing and social distancing.


At our Monday morning safety huddle, our employee health nurse noted that my voice sounded raspy. I told her I had just returned from a weekend trip outdoors. “Even so, you should probably go get tested just to be sure,” she said.


I was shocked when the results came back positive – COVID-19.


How was this even possible? The only places I visit are the hospital, home, and the grocery store. But the reality of such an infectious disease is that contagion can happen almost anywhere. It can occur from something as simple as touching an infected box of food on the shelf at a grocery store, and then touching your face or eyes for only a moment.


After the diagnosis, I began to worry. What would happen next?


A family member had come down with COVID-19 at the beginning of the outbreak and was in very poor health for several weeks. Would my reaction be the same?


Far from home, away from my family and my support system, I now had to quarantine for at least 10 days alone. Thankfully, I was lucky. My symptoms were mild. I never experienced a fever or breathing problems. Just a scratchy throat, congestion, and a few night sweats.


I was grateful that my hospital family came to my aid. Nurses and Doctors brought me enough food to last me through quarantine. I was able to join in on our calls when I could and continue serving our patients and team.  I was one of the lucky ones.


But the sad reality is that many of our patients and colleagues are not so fortunate.


The virus continues to sweep across the country with no end in sight. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 4.6 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 157,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.


Those who suffer the worst symptoms often face the virus on their own, in quarantine, unable to communicate with loved ones except through a smartphone.


They say that as a health care provider, you never really know what your patients are going through until you’ve been in their shoes.


After contracting COVID-19 myself, this experience has completely opened my eyes to what is important - focusing your energy on the right things, and the right priorities.


The experience has shed light on the importance of mental health for patients and health care providers grappling with COVID-19.

The American Psychiatric Association reports more than half of workers are concerned about discussing mental health issues in the workplace; while more than a third worry about consequences if they seek help. But if we as health care providers are going to care for the most vulnerable in our community, we need to be able to support each other.

To be successful caregivers in the age of the coronavirus pandemic we must have more empathy for each other, and our patients. We need to truly understand what they are going through physically and especially, mentally. Keeping patients connected with their loved ones and their support system through voice calls or video conferencing can elevate their spirits and make their healing journey a success.

As a healthcare leader, anytime you see it from a patient’s eyes you’re always going to have better outcomes. It’s more important than ever to embrace the human element of providing care.

After nearly two weeks in quarantine it is the one thing that enabled me to get through this experience the most. I’m grateful to my health care family for being there and helping me through COVID-19.

KESTGO leaders have unique insight and perspective on the importance of the people who make support services work and what it takes to enable their success. KESTGO approaches you, your organization and your people with the time and attention – and expertise – you deserve.

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The CDC reports several tips for health care providers who maintain their mental health while working on the frontline of the pandemic:

  • Communicate about job stress.
  • Identify factors that cause stress.
  • Ask about access to mental health resources.
  • Remind yourself that everyone is in uncertain times.
  • Recognize you are performing a crucial role in fighting this pandemic.
  • Keep a consistent daily routine when possible.
  • Try to get adequate sleep.
  • Make time to eat healthy meals.
  • Get exercise when you can. Spend time outdoors.
  • Take breaks from news stories, including social media.
  • Engage in breathing exercises or meditation.


Mental Health America has also compiled a list of useful meatal health resources for COVID-19 patients, families and health care workers. Read more here.