One of the stated goals of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare,” as some call it) is to increase the quality of healthcare in the United States. This goal can be achieved in many different ways, but all roads lead back to the concept of embracing “best practices” and following them religiously. In addition to the cultural and process work that needs to be done, technology can also play an important role in improving quality of care – for example, a policy and procedure management application can help an integrated health network define and push out best practices throughout its entire operation. As explained below, three key functions are required for such a system to be effective.
Provide network-wide visibility
First of all, the software must provide visibility across facilities. Visibility is more than dumping all documents into a single database; it means shedding light on practices within specific service lines at other facilities within the same network. This “visibility” encourages sharing and borrowing of best practices by policy authors.
Eliminate duplicate content
The software must also make it easy to manage only one true version of a policy or procedure. Managing a single copy of content is critically important because whenever duplicate copies exist, their content tends to diverge. The Holy Grail for sharing best practices content is to maintain a single copy of it while having it appear for caregivers as local content (i.e. with the caregiver’s home facility’s logo and header information at the top of any document).
Finally, the software should support ”applicability.” If caregivers are not presented with all applicable policies and procedures in a single search result, then how will they know that other applicable documents exist? They won’t. For true sharing of best practices in an integrated health system, policy and procedure management software needs to present all applicable documentation for a site (e.g. facility policies, health network or system policies and corporate policies) in one search result. Applicability is the key word.
Technology alone will not ensure that people embrace best practices, but it can play a supporting role in your efforts to push out best practices throughout your health network. By providing these three functions, a policy management system removes uncertainty from the equation and allows your staff to focus on what matters most – the quality of care they provide to their patients.