Writing effective healthcare policies and procedures requires a great deal of time, effort and attention to detail which involves a multi-step process of writing, reviewing and approving. This process ultimately serves as a key aspect of how healthcare organizations operate and align with regulatory standards. Policies and procedures must reflect the values of an organization, outline processes for day-to-day activities and serve as a guide to reduce risk and improve quality. Before an organization starts work on its policy library, it’s important to know the key components of effective policies and procedures and how to best manage them.
Getting Started with Healthcare Policies
A good first step in writing effective healthcare policies is to standardize formatting across all documents. It's important for staff to easily read and understand policy content, so they can quickly perform critical actions, especially those related to providing care. In many healthcare organizations, decentralized policy creation processes have led to inconsistent policy formats. RLDatix PolicyStat converts policy documents into web pages, offering organizations the opportunity to apply a consistent format across all policies. Throughout the document conversion and implementation processes, PolicyStat has designated teams to guide healthcare organizations through these steps. Incorporating this standardization helps all staff members easily find what they are looking for at the point of care. When writing a policy, make sure your documents include the following components:
A consistent look and feel
The organization’s corporate logo
A table of contents
All relevant policy sections
Once your policies have a standardized format, it’s time to focus on policy content. In today’s healthcare environment, organizations have an increasing number of regulations they must adhere to–– from HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act, to state, provincial, and local regulations. Effective policies serve as a roadmap for healthcare organizations to adhere to stated requirements while clearly establishing their values, ethics, commitments and social responsibility. They also allow staff members to understand their duties and obligations and provide a general strategy for leadership on how to handle various ethical issues as they arise.
Healthcare Procedures: A Supportive Roadmap
While healthcare policies detail organizational requirements, healthcare procedures establish a clear plan of action to implement them. They provide step-by-step guidance to staff members, helping to clarify guidelines and eliminate misunderstandings. To start, procedures should explain exactly when and how to take action in specific situations. For an added layer of support to staff, they should also provide acceptable alternative options, if applicable, for any steps. A great way to think of procedures is to visualize a roadmap that offers direction and highlights details to help staff members stay on the right path and deliver quality care. RLDatix PolicyStat integrates with third party evidence-based policies and procedures, allowing healthcare staff to seamlessly reference procedures and skills all from a centralized platform.
Reducing Costs and Preventable Adverse Events with Policy and Procedure Management
Healthcare organizations must be sure that healthcare policies and procedures are compliant with regulatory standards. Such guidance helps employees follow proper procedures and creates a safe environment for patients. A 2019 study from the Leapfrog group estimates that 161,250 preventable deaths occur each year in U.S. hospitals. Researchers from John Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality found this by identifying poor hospital performance on 16 patient safety measures used by the Leapfrog Group to assign hospital grades. Despite a decrease in this number since a 2016 study conducted by John Hopkins, hospitals in the US are still facing a staggering amount of preventable deaths.
Adam E. Block, PhD, a leading healthcare economist, reports that preventable medical errors such as hospital acquired infections, surgical complications, medication errors and pressure ulcers can cost hospitals up to $11.9 million per 100,000 patient admissions. While some preventable adverse events can be attributed to human error, others are a result of faulty systems and processes that could be prevented with improved policy and procedure management. For an organization’s policy library to make a true impact on care, there must be a system in place to disseminate policies across the organization. When equipped with a policy and procedure management solution, healthcare organizations are better positioned to reduce preventable adverse events because staff have timely, accurate care information at the point of care.
Managing Legal Risk with Policy and Procedure Management
An effective policy management system, such as RLDatix PolicyStat, also supports organizations when situations related to liability risk management arise. If a healthcare organization faces litigation, it should be prepared to demonstrate that policies and procedures were in place, up to date and employees were aware of and had access to the correct processes. A policy management solution provides a centralized system for this information to be stored and tracked, creating a streamlined process for organizations to access all policy information. Manual forms of policy management create potential for policy information to fall through the cracks, putting an organization at risk for serious legal trouble. In the context of litigation, a healthcare organization would be required to prove that a policy was in place at the time of an adverse event. PolicyStat archives each version of a policy which can be located and referenced when needed.
Writing effective healthcare policies and procedures is critical in helping your organization’s activities align with its stated values, outline consistent guidelines for staff and support staff’s efforts in preventing adverse events. These key documents provide clarity to staff when they encounter important organizational processes, including patient safety, regulatory requirements and legal liabilities. Effective policies and procedures are just the first step in your organization’s policy management journey. Having a tool in place to manage your policy library supports improved communication and a streamlined process for creating, sharing and reviewing policies and procedures across your organization.