How Healthcare Facilities Can Cut Costs and Improve Sanitation in Restrooms

    By Dan Storto,
    President of World Dryer Corp.

    The healthcare industry today is rapidly changing, with pressure coming from every direction to improve operating efficiencies and reduce costs while maintaining the highest level of care. When considering cost reduction initiatives, a healthcare facility’s restrooms may not be the first areas that come to mind, but a simple change in a restroom’s fixtures can lower costs and reduce maintenance needs while improving sanitation and sustainability.

    The rising cost of paper
    Paper of every kind has become increasingly expensive over the past decade, and typically people use more than they need to in public restrooms. In fact, on average, people use 2.5 paper towel sheets every time they dry their hands. With the cost of paper towels rising to as much as 2 cents per sheet, it can cost as much as 5 cents per person to dry hands with paper. How many people use your healthcare facility’s restrooms every day? Multiply that number by 5 cents and your expenses can add up to hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year on paper towels alone. Consider, too, the shelf space required for stocking the paper towel supply, as well as the time it takes maintenance employees to restock the dispensers and clean up and dispose of the clutter paper towels leave behind.

    High-speed modern hand dryers can dry hands in seconds, and some are so energy efficient they can help a facility qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Currently, in terms of energy consumption, hand dryers cost about 7 cents per 200 uses with heat, or 4 cents per 200 uses without heat. Compare this number to the cost of using paper towels, and hand dryers can help healthcare facilities achieve significant savings per year.

    Sanitation is crucial
    Going beyond cost considerations, for healthcare facilities in particular, hygiene and appearances are important. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities will commonly ask staff and recommend to visitors that they wash their hands repeatedly throughout the day. Door handles, seating, countertops and the handles on faucets in restroom facilities can carry viruses and bacteria. However, frequent hand-washing can mean exposure to yet another potential source of contamination—damp, used paper towels in publicly-accessed restrooms.

    Touch-free hand dryers, soap dispensers, faucets and even toilet paper dispensers eliminate the need to touch the surfaces where many other hands have been. For even further protection, some hand dryers and other fixtures offer anti-microbial technology to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and mold.

    Sustainability and regulatory compliance
    When it comes to conserving natural resources, replacing paper towels with hand dryers may at first appear to be trading one set of carbon emissions for another. However, according to EPA estimates, producing a single ton of paper requires 7,000 gallons of water, 360 gallons of oil, 158 million BTUs of energy and as much as two to four tons of trees. By contrast, over its lifetime, one hand dryer will produce three tons less CO2 than the production of the paper towels it replaces.

    In addition, many hand dryers today are ADA-compliant, which can be a significant issue for healthcare facility patients and visitors, and when it comes to conforming to federal and local regulations for public-access restrooms.

    The healthcare industry today is experiencing changing regulations and requirements, and many of these changes are related to containing costs. By replacing paper towels with energy-efficient, rapid-dry hand dryers, healthcare facility managers can cut costs and reduce maintenance needs in restrooms, all while improving sustainability and providing a hygienic environment for patients and visitors.

    Dan Storto is president for Berkeley, Ill.-based World Dryer (www.worlddryer.com), a global manufacturer of energy efficient, rapid-dry hand dryers. He can be reached at dstorto@worlddryer.com.

    As seen in Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News, March 2013, issue.