In a healthcare environment, ensuring facilities remain clean and sanitized is a primary concern. This goes beyond making sure surgical environments are clean to prevent complications related to infection; the entirety of a hospital or other healthcare facility — including the curtains — needs to remain as sanitized as possible to prevent the spread of illness and, ultimately, to protect the health of not just patients but also healthcare staff.
To support the need for a safe environment for medical procedures, professional organizations have been formed, such as the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC).
Information about the HLAC
According to the HLAC, they are a “nonprofit organization that inspects and accredits laundries that process reusable textiles for hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities” (https://www.hlacnet.org). Their primary mission is to protect the health of patients as well as medical staff through the creation of healthcare laundry standards. Unlike many organizations, HLAC doesn’t have a traditional membership, but instead employs a voluntary Board of Directors that’s made up of industry experts including professionals in the commercial laundry industry and infection control industry, association executives and representatives of the federal government.
The HLAC was originally founded in 2005, in response to many years of requests for a third-party accrediting body that could create certification programs for when a laundry provider met high textile processing standards. The HLAC has become increasingly well-known in the textile industry, as its program is the most detailed and comprehensive in applying their standards to on-premise, co-op, and commercial laundry operations.
The HLAC’s healthcare laundry standards have been professionally recognized for their effectiveness in providing high levels of infection prevention and safety protocols to patients and staff. These standards cover the full range of reusable textile processing, beginning with the handling and transport of healthcare textiles, the processing of these textiles in plant, and the delivery of these now clean textiles once more to the customer.
Basic considerations such as customer service, personnel training, and facility layout are covered under HLAC healthcare laundry standards. Additionally, OSHA-required practices and those directly related to patient safety are specifically addressed, including control standards for bloodborne pathogen exposure.
How HLAC Accreditation Works
The accreditation process that HLAC employs is inspection-based. HLAC inspectors examine a healthcare laundry facility’s processes in comparison to predetermined standards. For example, products leaving the laundry facility should be more than just clean — they should be properly sanitized to adhere to the hygienically clean standard, reducing the risk of spreading infection or pathogens to patients or medical staff.
These inspections are significantly weighted against several important factors, such as how well laundry facilities adhere to regulatory body requirements, the design of a laundry facility, its equipment and practices, and also its training and other safety protocols. Becoming HLAC-accredited through this process provides evidence that a laundry facility has had its operational processes inspected by an independent organization and that it has been found to adhere to professionally-recognized policies designed to ensure infection prevention. Once achieved, the accreditation is valid for three years.
The Benefits of Partnering with an HLAC-Accredited Laundry Provider
As it is completely voluntary, there’s no mandate for healthcare laundry providers to seek accreditation through the HLAC. However, hospitals and other healthcare facilities often do choose to partner with an HLAC-accredited healthcare laundry provider due to the many benefits that accreditation offers. Meeting and maintaining this accreditation means a laundry provider has demonstrated a commitment to high levels of excellence in how it approaches its medical textile process.
A laundry provider with HLAC accreditation shows that it is dedicated to providing patients and staff with the highest levels of care possible. Hospitals that outsource their linen inventory management to an HLAC-accredited organization can rest assured that the laundering facility can be depended on to provide reliable and consistent laundry and textile management services that meet or exceed the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council’s exacting standards. Partnering with an HLAC-accredited healthcare laundry provider can help protect medical staff, their patients, and their overhead.
Cost-Effective Solutions to Ensure Compliance
Outsourcing healthcare laundry services to a third party has always been a simple way for healthcare facilities and hospitals to control costs. Not having to dedicate staff and resources to manage collecting, cleaning, and re-distributing healthcare linens and other textiles can free up staff to focus on re-investing time and energy into treating patients better and more efficiently. Therefore, utilizing an off-site healthcare laundry partner is often a more cost-effective solution.
Choosing a laundry services provider that is also HLAC-accredited provides even more benefits to hospitals and healthcare facilities. An accredited provider has already demonstrated its dedication to health and safety compliance, which means that a hospital can be assured that their linens and other medical textiles are being cleaned and sanitized to the exacting standards held by the HLAC.
ImageFIRST is a Prime Example of Accredited Excellence
Not every healthcare laundry provider is created equal. There can be significant differentiation even among those who seek and achieve HLAC accreditation. This is why it’s so important to choose a provider that has a strong track record of not just maintaining accreditation, but also of offering industry-leading customer service and inventory management solutions.
A clear example of a laundry management provider that has built a reputation for both cost management and accredited excellence is ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists. Our medical laundry sanitation standards are rigorous and go beyond hygienically clean in order to safeguard patient and staff health and safety. Dedicated to meeting or exceeding the already high healthcare laundry standards set by the HLAC (as well as OSHA, the CDC and the Joint Commission), ImageFIRST is an ideal laundry services partner for any hospital or healthcare facility that wants to find a cost-effective solution to their healthcare linen sanitation that will also offer uncompromising levels of patient and staff safety.