With so many competing priorities at organizations in the healthcare world, handling policies and procedures…
Valuable as the knowledge would be, learning how your competitors are growing revenue and patient traffic while maintaining compliance standards in this era of lean processes isn’t exactly the kind of insight you can simply Google.
But, you can leverage the experience of similar facilities outside your market that are no longer constrained by outdated and inefficient approaches to managing policies and procedures.
In this article, we’ll share three policy management strategies our clients have implemented to reduce wasted time and improve the quality of care in your organization.
In the final section, we will also share specific policy examples to illustrate how something as simple as creating instant access to policy documents can have a profound impact on audit outcomes.
We’ll start by addressing a common survey trap with the potential to seriously wound even the most diligent and well-managed facilities.
Strategy 1: Avoid complications of expired policy documents
Fortunately for St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana (SVHCI), when surveyors for the Indiana State Department of Health appeared without notice in late 2007, SVHCI had just gone live with PolicyStat’s policy lifecycle solution the day before.
Prior to that point, SVHCI was facing compliance challenges that could have impacted their reputation and delayed their plans for expansion.
Policies were kept in binders, and the paper copies found within the binders were often not kept up-to-date. Redundant policies also were showing up in multiple departments, and policies were expiring without anyone noticing. SVHCI had no method for tracking performance related to the number of policies expired, about to expire, or pending approval.
As central Indiana’s first free-standing heart hospital and a nationally-recognized leader in advanced, cardiovascular disease treatment, SVHCI knew their policy and procedure management process couldn’t scale, and something needed to change.
Carefully weighing options that included a homegrown system based on SharePoint, SVHCI chose a cloud-based policy and procedure solution from PolicyStat that in addition to greatly simplifying compliance, allows SVHCI managers to stay on top of expiring policies via prominent flags in the dashboard module.
Now that getting blindsided with out-of-date policies is a thing of the past, managers across SVHCI’s specialized heart care network have a high degree of confidence in their compliance readiness—and a critical competitive advantage.
Strategy 2: Eliminate the time suck of version wrangling
In more than a decade of working exclusively with healthcare clients, we’ve seen how compliance process issues can sap time away from people whose primary mission is to deliver the highest quality patient care possible.
For Georgetown Community Hospital (GCH), a 75-bed, acute care facility located in Georgetown, Kentucky, the most insidious efficiency vampire of all was keeping up with the overwhelming number of iterations generated by their policy creation process.
To their credit, GCH approaches compliance as seriously as facilities that serve populations ten times the size of the hospital’s service area. This explains why at one time, the hospital’s policy management process involved at least 30 managers writing and editing policies with different formats and headers.
Their diligence came at a high cost. Each policy went through up to four different approval processes, and each one took an average of five months for approval.
This is the kind of process monster that can drain energy and passion from care teams, and it’s also one that’s easier to slay than you might think.
Using PolicyStat’s intuitive, user-friendly platform and streamlined digital workflows, GCH currently manages upwards of 2,000 policies smoothly and efficiently, thanks to eliminating:
- The need to download and email the latest document to others for approval. People get the right notifications in real time.
- The need for potentially awkward follow-up due to inconsistent formatting or dueling policies. Authors collaborate in real time within the system. And thanks to a visual graph on the dashboard that shows the next person in line to approve, clarity and accountability are merged into the process.
Bottom line, this strategy can allow even the smallest county hospital to do more with less while delivering high-quality care by maximizing time, which is your most valuable asset.
Strategy 3: Stop searching and start shining
Few healthcare professionals would claim with a straight face that staying on top of policy updates is the most rewarding part of their day. But most would agree that being able to produce relevant, current documents on the spot is an operational and strategic imperative.
After all, surveys are rarely announced in advance.
That’s why we’ve saved what may be your best compliance strategy for last, and it’s one that can be boiled down to two words: Easy Access. In an inspection, being unable to quickly produce the right document due to a poorly organized or outdated archive can create the appearance of lax management.
With a system that allows anyone at any time to find the most recent, updated policy in seconds, you can avoid red flags and project confidence.
Which is one of the key reasons Indiana Orthopaedic Hospital (IOH) chose PolicyStat.
Staff members couldn’t easily find critical information, and policy reviews were time-consuming. Contributing factors included manually maintained policies that were stored in multiple locations with inconsistent formatting.
If policy examples were needed for reference, say for incident reporting or release of information, the numeric system IOH was using to identify them made it nearly impossible for someone to locate a particular document without involving a manager.
By replacing an antiquated numbered system with the ability to add keyword tags and group policies by audit category or standards reference, anyone with permission can locate all survey-required documents in a single search.
While adopting a strategy to reduce the time it takes key staff to locate policy documents won’t solve every compliance challenge in your work environment, it will convey to staff and surveyors that you have your policy and procedure act together.
You’ll send a signal to everyone in your service area that you’re up to the challenge of delivering best-in-class patient care, and passing regulatory and accreditation scrutiny with comparative ease.
This won’t take long
Take two minutes, and watch our demo to learn how you can automatically begin shifting the thousands of hours you’re spending on policy and procedure management into focusing more time on delivering higher quality care.
Of course, you can also contact us to set up a live demo. You’ll quickly see why we have a 99 percent client retention rate and a 99.8 percent customer support satisfaction score.