Policies and procedures are the fibers that hold organizations together. They streamline and standardize daily operational activities, allowing a healthcare organization to run efficiently. Policies and procedures are unique to each organization and tailored to fit specific goals and outcomes. Without these documents, organizations would struggle to provide clarity when dealing with issues and activities that are critical to health and safety, legal liabilities and regulatory requirements. To support these efforts, an organization’s system for managing policies needs to empower staff to seamlessly create, edit and share policies and procedures.
Policy and procedure management varies from one organization – and industry – to another. When an organization is equipped with a powerful solution, such as RLDatix PolicyStat, to manage their policies and procedures, this can improve organizational productivity and efficiency, and ensure they are remaining compliant with relevant regulations. Policy management in healthcare is vital to the function of an organization, as it sets a general plan of action to guide desired outcomes and serves as a fundamental guideline to help make decisions.
Healthcare policies also help staff understand their roles and responsibilities. In healthcare, policy should set the foundation for the delivery of safe, quality and cost-effective care. With the continued increase in new regulations and requirements, such as the Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, and Meaningful Use, creating policies and effectively communicating these to employees has become a critical component of maintaining organizational operations.
The Impact of New Laws and Regulations on Policy Management
When new laws or regulations are introduced, policies must be created and shared to ensure that staff have the most up to date information at the point of care. There are regularly changing provisions within the Affordable Care Act, other federal healthcare requirements, state laws and regulations, CMS Conditions of Participation, Joint Commission Standards and other accreditation requirements. The rapid pace in which regulations change also requires automated policy approval and dissemination as well as acknowledgment of employee review. Manual policy management systems lack the technical functionality needed to securely manage policies essential to daily care practices. Standards & Regulations Manager, an optional RLDatix PolicyStat add-on module, allows healthcare organizations to link their policies and procedures to accreditation agencies such as The Joint Commission, CAP, HFAP, DNV, CMS CoPs and others. Depending on which regulations an organization aligns with, when there are updates are made by a specific organization, Standards & Regulations Manager sends automated email alerts and notifications, supporting compliance across the organization. Additionally, organizations can easily link to standards or regulations within an existing policy.
When regulatory and accrediting bodies pay visits to healthcare organizations, a policy management solution offers validation that an organization is operating in an organized and compliant state and prepared for a survey or audit. Without an organized system in place, policy information can fall through the cracks. This can result in healthcare organizations facing additional on-site visits by regulatory organizations and put the organization at risk for increased deficiencies and penalties.
How Technology Supports Effective Policy Management
Many healthcare organizations are shifting away from manual systems for policy management and adopting a digital approach and enabling a streamlined policy management process. Robust policy management software provides a controlled framework for updating, authorizing and communicating to the organization.
In light of COVID-19, some organizations are offering remote care options. This new context makes it increasingly important for staff to access and share important information from anywhere. Healthcare providers of all sizes can benefit from a web-based policy management tool, as it allows staff to easily access policy information on and off-site. It is increasingly important for staff to be aware of new policies, especially as they relate to COVID-19. RLDatix PolicyStat supports healthcare organizations in communicating these updates by providing the option to send out acknowledgement reminders across the organization and track that staff members are reading important care information.
It is critical for policy management systems to allow for streamlined updates and notification tools to make staff aware of changes made to important policy information. As teams navigate through policy approval workflows, it’s important that a platform allows staff to identify where edits have been made and where policies are in the approval process. This provides transparency around the status of a policy and improves communication across the organization.
Next Steps: Selecting a Policy Management Solution
There a few key features that a policy management software should include:
- A consistent look and feel among all documents, promoting a cohesive policy library
- Robust keyword search capabilities, allowing staff to easily access important care information when they need it
- Approval workflows and notifications that help ensure an organization’s policies and procedures are updated and communicated to staff in a timely manner
Policy in the healthcare environment sets the foundation for providing the best level of care. Policies and procedures help organizations stay on track and achieve organizational goals and outcomes. They are an essential piece of how healthcare organizations function and serve as support for frontline staff. At the time of an adverse event, these documents serve as a resource to help frontline staff reduce risk and provide better care. As healthcare continues to evolve and face new challenges, it’s important that organizations are equipped with solutions that help them align with regulatory requirements and support quality care for all patients.