Joint Commission’s New Director of Engineering Looks Forward to ‘Connecting,’ ‘Learning’ at AAMI 2018

Posted June 3, 2018

Kenneth MonroeKenneth Monroe, PE, MBA, CHC, PMP, director of engineering, Standards Interpretation Group, The Joint Commission

In late December, Kenneth Monroe took over one of the most high-profile positions in the world of healthcare technology management (HTM): director of engineering at The Joint Commission. Monroe, who previously served as an associate project director in The Joint Commission’s Department of Standards and Survey Methods, is one of the featured speakers at the AAMI 2018 Conference & Expo in Long Beach, CA. Ahead of his June 4 presentation, Monroe sat down with AAMI News to share a bit about himself and his work at The Joint Commission.

Q: What drew you to a career in healthcare?

A long time ago, I was looking for a new job. I went to Northwestern University’s placement office and found a listing for a project manager at Michael Reese Hospital on Chicago’s South Side. At that time, Michael Reese was one of the three largest hospitals in Chicago. In the three plus years that I worked there, I learned a lot about healthcare, construction, and project management. The projects were varied and interesting. No two projects were the same. The days flew by, and I was hooked.

Q: How did you first get started at The Joint Commission?

About two years ago I saw a listing for an associate project director in The Joint Commission’s Department of Standards and Survey Methods (DSSM) in “ASHE Careers.” I was encouraged to apply by Jonathan Flannery at ASHE (the American Society for Healthcare Engineering). I applied for the position, then called my old friend George Mills to ask about it. George thought that given my background, this would be a great opportunity.

Just after starting at The Joint Commission, in early May 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final rule that required a complete rewrite of our Life Safety (LS) and Environment of Care (EC) chapters, which were my responsibility. We succeeded with a lot of help from the DSSM, Standards Interpretation Group (SIG), and SIG’s Department of Engineering.

Q: You were appointed director in the Department of Engineering last December. What have your first few months on the job been like?

The time has flown by. The work of SIG’s Department of Engineering is very different from DSSM. SIG is the customer service arm of The Joint Commission. Between answering questions, public speaking, and survey analysis, we have extensive public contact. My speaking engagements have been a combination of Joint Commission updates and straightforward education about the LS, EC, and Emergency Management (EM) chapters. Our group tackles questions asked by our surveyors, our customers, and consultants regarding the interpretation of our LS, EC, and EM standards.

Q: What has been the best part of the job so far?

The best part of the job has been meeting new people both inside and outside The Joint Commission.

Q: What are you hoping to accomplish during your first year in this role?

I am hoping for my team to tackle reducing hospital-associated infections (HAIs) by more robustly educating and supporting our accredited organizations in better facility planning, design, construction, and operations. Approximately 700,000 HAIs occur in U.S. hospitals each year, resulting in 75,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We need to reduce this number to as close to zero as possible. I also would like to further assist our accredited organizations in energy management and reduction of use, and help facility directors at our accredited organizations focus on capital planning for their facility equipment. Finally, we are seeing more efforts to prepare for and prevent workplace violence.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about attending the AAMI 2018 Conference & Expo?

I look forward to connecting with experts at the conference about the issues they’re experiencing with medical equipment and answering questions they might have about related Joint Commission requirements. I also am excited to learn how The Joint Commission can best support their work moving forward.

Q: What will your presentation focus on?

I plan to present a little about The Joint Commission and our survey process, standards development, and EM preparedness.

Q: What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

I hope attendees will recognize that The Joint Commission is a consultative partner with our customers. I also hope they gain a better understanding of The Joint Commission’s many quality improvement initiatives to improve patient safety and quality of care.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that healthcare organizations are currently facing? How is The Joint Commission addressing these challenges?

As we experience climate change and violence, healthcare organizations need to take stronger steps to provide a safe haven—not only for patients, but also for staff and visitors. As recent hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida have proven, organizations are expected to be the place of refuge for displaced people. Having plans to keep the lights on, regardless of the conditions outside, is a community expectation. To address this, we updated our emergency management requirements in November 2017. The updated standards allow for healthcare organizations to more effectively plan for disasters and coordinate with federal, state, tribal, regional, and local emergency preparedness systems.

Infection control is another large issue for healthcare organizations. We are working to help our accredited facilities reduce the risk of HAIs.

Q: What is the most common mistake/problem that healthcare facilities run into during a Joint Commission survey?

The Joint Commission recently released its top standards compliance data for 2017. For hospitals, nine out of the 10 most frequently cited requirements fall under the LS or EC chapters, including:

  • The hospital provides and maintains systems for extinguishing fires.
  • The hospital manages risks associated with its utility systems.
  • The hospital provides and maintains building features to protect individuals from the hazards of fire and smoke.
  • The hospital establishes and maintains a safe, functional environment.
  • Building and fire protection features are designed and maintained to minimize the effects of fire, smoke, and heat.
  • The hospital manages risks related to hazardous materials and waste.
  • The hospital maintains the integrity of the means of egress.
  • The hospital inspects, tests, and maintains utility systems.
  • The hospital inspects, tests, and maintains medical gas and vacuum systems.

Q: In general, what is the best thing healthcare facilities can do to make sure they are always ready for a Joint Commission survey?

Healthcare facilities may find our frequently asked standards interpretation questions helpful. In addition, if any accredited organization has a specific standards-related question, they may contact SIG directly by completing an online form.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

Over the years, I have had a variety of interests. One of my two biggest hobbies was giving tours for the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Besides giving a variety of walking tours, I created tours of Chicago’s elevated system and green buildings. My other major interest is Corvettes. I currently own three: a 1965, 1993, and 2002. I have worked on them, judged them for authenticity, and just plain enjoyed driving them. I have been a Chicago Bears and Northwestern University football season ticket holder for years, so you can say that I enjoy live football. Finally, music has been a big part of my life. I have been a subscriber to the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. I play the trumpet and have performed in Chicago’s Do-It-Yourself Messiah all-volunteer orchestra, as well as a local concert band.

Q: What was the best career advice you were ever given?

Maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life.