Risk management in healthcare is incredibly important, but can also be incredibly complex. Healthcare organizations not only have the responsibility of providing the best possible care for patients, but they also must securely handle sensitive documents, protect their staff from potential harm and work to reduce litigation risks.

It’s impossible for any healthcare organization to eliminate risks completely. However, effective policy management is a foundational first step in mitigating risks and managing exposure where it may arise. Creating thorough policies, distributing those policies to employees and maintaining complete and accurate records can help organizations improve patient care and protect against litigation.

Here are a few ways to better mitigate risk through healthcare policy management:

Regularly update policies to meet industry standards and address risks

In the constantly busy world of healthcare, it can be easy to let policy reviews fall by the wayside. But using older policies can be risky. Healthcare laws and industry standards are always changing, and organizations need to make sure their policies keep up.

Administrators should schedule regular reviews of all policies to ensure they meet accreditation and industry standards and address areas of risk. Industry standards and risk managers can help anticipate common risks, but since some areas of risk differ from organization to organization, healthcare centers should also actively adjust policies to meet the specific needs of their organization. Organizations should encourage open communication among staff to help identify problem areas and ensure the proper accountability measures are in place for things such as retaining and disposing of patient records, preventing falls and accidents and ensuring accurate billing.

Keep detailed records of policy distribution and sign-offs

Simply having great policies won’t do much good. In order to mitigate risk, organizations have to be able to prove that they took the necessary steps to inform and train staff members about policies. Mistakes happen, but documenting when employees read new or revised policies can help protect against negligence claims. Administrators can use a document management software to track electronic signatures, test staff on policy understanding, and maintain an audit trail showing exactly when each staff member read and signed a policy.

Maintain policy consistency

Ineffective policy management can result in inconsistencies or even contradictions between policies. If employees in different locations are referring to different versions of the same policy, it can result in practice variability, which puts the organization at risk for malpractice claims.

More and more healthcare organizations are moving to cloud-based document management as a solution to this problem. A centralized, cloud-based system ensures that employees only see the most updated version of a policy, but also allows administrators to keep records of older versions in case a claim arises from before the changes took effect.

All healthcare practices involve some level of risk, but good healthcare policy management can mitigate those risks and protect patients, staff and the organization as a whole.