From patient discharge procedures to staff hygiene requirements, policies and procedures are comprehensive guidelines that communicate important information to staff across a healthcare organization. Policies and procedures serve as a guide for daily operations and help ensure compliance with legal requirements. Healthcare’s complex structure requires that a policy and procedure library is comprehensive, covering a wide range of content that protects patients, visitors, staff and the organization.
Maintaining and properly managing policies helps reduce the risk of accidents, improves efficiency, and helps maintain a sound environment for all. While healthcare policies and procedures vary depending on the organization, some categories are consistent across all healthcare organizations.
Here’s an easy-to-read breakdown of healthcare’s top five types of policies and procedures:
What is the fundamental purpose of a healthcare organization? To deliver care to patients. It’s no surprise that the most comprehensive set of healthcare policies and procedures is related to overall care operations in a healthcare facility. This subcategory of policies and procedures can cover topics including nutrition guides, patient and family education, abuse and neglect, admission and discharge and patient rights and responsibilities. Most importantly, effective patient care policies should support staff in understanding how your organization handles specific medical situations, and equip them with the correct information they need at the point of care.
Care policies also differ depending on individual departments and their unique role within an organization. For example, a hospital’s pediatric and cardiology departments will have a set of policies unique to their individual care practices.
Health and Safety
Health and safety policies are especially important considering that healthcare professionals face greater health and safety risks on the job, compared to other industries. Depending on your specific type of healthcare facility, examples of these policies could cover the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), what to do when staff are exposed to dangerous substances or face any security threats. Having these policies in place helps staff to be more aware of their surroundings and keeps the safety of everyone top of mind.
As the healthcare industry continues to adapt to changes brought on by COVID-19, many healthcare organizations are incorporating COVID-19 content into their policy libraries. The pandemic has taken a physical and emotional toll on healthcare staff around the world, prompting some organizations to incorporate tools to support staff members and their mental health. If your organization has implemented similar tools or programs, make sure to include information on these resources in your policy library.
It’s also important to keep in mind policies related to staff’s overall wellness. These policies can cover resources for internal fitness programs, social support groups and other programs your organization has in place to support health outcomes for staff.
As healthcare organizations continue to adopt technology solutions, data privacy and IT security are becoming increasingly important. Since shared information across a healthcare organization can include private information related to staff members, patients or visitors, it’s important that processes are in place to securely store and manage this data. Healthcare policies that help support information management encompass topics such as confidentiality, security and integrity of information and the distribution of medical records. Failure to keep sensitive information secure, therefore violating HIPAA requirements, could result in millions of lost dollars, negatively impact the healthcare organization's reputation and result in the potential loss of the organization’s tax-exempt status.
Drug Handling and Management
Pharmacy is typically one of the largest departments of a hospital. In a hospital context, the pharmacy handles all medicine purchasing, manufacturing and dispensing. Due to the sensitive nature of the pharmacy department and its role within a healthcare organization, it is essential that this department follows a strict set of guidelines to help reduce medication errors or accidents. Pharmacy policies cover a range of topics including prescription protocols, outpatient prescription availability and drug sample protocols.
Administrative and HR
Administrative policies help healthcare facilities run smoothly and ensure that staff, patient and visitor needs are appropriately addressed. Administrative policies and procedures can include visitation rules, dress code policy, acquisition of equipment and bed policy.
A healthcare organization’s human resource management department handles a variety of responsibilities related to the internal health of an organization. In particular, this department focuses on supporting the safety and welfare of staff, communicating legal and ethical standards and developing an organization’s culture. To ensure that an organization is functioning properly, it’s important for its HR department to create and maintain a comprehensive list of policies and procedures. Similar to other industries, HR policies may cover vacation days, personal hygiene maintenance and shift policies.
Having a system in place for managing a policy library improves the effectiveness of a healthcare organization’s policies and procedures by streamlining policy review and acknowledgment processes. When staff can easily access your organization’s policy library, they can more efficiently put policies and procedures into practice.
Once you have identified these five essential policy and procedure categories, it’s time to make the most of your policy library. Implementing a digital policy management solution helps you better organize and share policy information, further your organization’s compliance efforts and support staff in providing better, safer care.