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September 1, 2020

Now More Than Ever

Here’s the truth. It’s challenging keeping policies updated with industry best practices, accreditation standards, and ever-changing regulations. And if you don’t have the right policy tool, it’s like going into a boxing match without gloves.

As public image becomes more important and society more litigious, policy management and adherence matters like never before. As the accreditation manager or policy administrator for your organization, you understand this better than anyone.

When you equip employees with the necessary tools to proactively adhere to standards, both mandated and voluntary, you save yourself, your organization, and your legal department a lot of time and money. It’s about being proactive, not reactive.

But if you don’t have a policy management tool, or rather, if you don’t have a good one, then you may be all too familiar with these five common problems.

1. Outdated Processes

In the absence of a good policy management system, policy and process can easily slip through the cracks of your organization. There are many pieces to successful policy management, but a system connects those pieces together to create a unified whole.

Without a single, unified system, policy management can resemble the Wild West more than an organized process. If you’re using paper or mixed media for your policy management, some of these challenges may sound familiar:

  • Scattered policies: making it difficult to access and update them
  • Multiple versions: resulting in employees referencing old policies
  • Poor communication: making it difficult to send and track policy updates
  • Limited collaboration: leading to frustration with ineffective tools like email
  • Unsecure system: increasing risk of misplaced docs and privacy breaches
  • Lack of accountability: resulting in risk of employee noncompliance

What challenges have you faced with a paper-based system?

At the end of the day, paper isn’t scalable. It requires filing cabinets and binders, which means more office space. It requires more man hours and potentially overtime pay as employees sift through hundreds of papers to find a single policy. Paper systems often lead to important documents getting misplaced and multiple versions floating around the office.

Mixed media combines paper and digital files, using things like internal shared drives and email to reduce paper use. As you may have discovered, these solutions have limitations.

Internal shared drives can only be used internally, which prevents remote access to important docs. The sign-off process often involves printing a PDF document and scanning the signed version back onto the drive, leaving a lot of room for error. And while email can be used for communication, it has no workflow, smart editing, or tracking functionality, making it difficult to collaborate on policy updates with key stakeholders.

To learn more about policy management systems, as well as their pros and cons, take a look at this article today.

2. Lack of Accountability

Now more than ever, organizations are pressured to keep employees accountable to best practices, industry standards, and federal/state regulations. While accountability is necessary in every industry, it carries a greater weight for public sector organizations, where employees are often confronted with life-or-death decisions.

What external pressures are you facing? Maybe you’re a law enforcement agency responding to the Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities. Perhaps your organization has recently faced lawsuits, fines, or investigations. Or maybe new leadership tasked you with finding a policy management system.

Whatever brought you to this point, welcome. It’s a good place to be. Better to be proactive than reactive. Better to act now, before there’s a problem, than to deal with the backlash of employee misconduct, intentional or not.

Amidst a global pandemic and calls for country-wide police reform, healthcare organizations and municipal agencies need more than strict policies. They need a policy management system that can foster employee accountability.

Accountability is about protecting your organization and your employees. With the right policy management solution, you can do both. To better foster accountability, here are some features you should be looking for in a tool:

  • Disseminate new and updated documents to employees
  • Give employees access to mission critical info from any device
  • Assign E-signatures to custom groups of employees
  • Track who has received and signed documents
  • Auto-remind employees of documents pending signature
  • Create and track custom tests and attach them to policies

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3. Managing Document Life Cycles

The right policy management solution gives you control over documents across their entire life cycle. Why is this important?

As you well know, policy and procedure documents aren’t stagnant from cradle to grave. They constantly evolve along with industry standards and federal, state, and local regulations.

As they evolve, documents need to be updated, old versions need to be archived, and new versions need to be published, disseminated, and tracked.

That’s a lot to do manually, and it’s neither time- nor cost-effective.

If you do it all manually, then first off, kudos to you. You are a policy guru, well acquainted with the challenge of sifting through email, filing cabinets, and shared drives for documents that need to be updated, all while verifying that only one version exists across multiple departments. But that’s not all.

Chances are you’re all too familiar with the headache of recruiting key stakeholders to review, revise, and/or approve the new draft.

Only upon approval can you archive the old, publish the new, and distribute it to your workforce. Even then, how do you track read receipts and signatures to verify employees understand the change? Without the right solution it’s difficult, if not impossible.

Fortunately there’s a better way. Here are three key features that work together to make document life cycle management a breeze.

Workflow Process

Imagine being able to set up advanced workflows to collaborate with stakeholders across your organization, thereby regularly updating your key documents and maintaining compliance. Sounds nice, right?

Workflows should let you assign stakeholders and designate their level of access/responsibility. If multiple people need to review a document, it automatically notifies assigned stakeholders when it’s their turn, saving you the trouble of manually coordinating hand-offs and multiple files.

Version Comparison

The right solution simplifies the process of editing and updating documents. Compare and review changes to your policies the easy way—with a tool that compares the old and new drafts side-by-side and automatically highlights all changes for your convenience. The version comparison feature expedites the review and approval process for everyone involved, making it a must-have.

Version Control

Can you confidently say that only a single, current version of each of your policies exists? If so, that’s great news. If not, then version control should be a top priority. It lets you stay organized with a single, published version of each policy and manage risk by archiving past versions for future reference. At the end of the day, this feature guards your organization against liability and helps you prepare for audits and assessments.

4. Mapping Policy to Accreditation

Do you want to be accredited? If you already are, do you want to start managing the process digitally?

Mapping policies to accreditation standards is no easy task, especially if you have to do it manually. So if you want to get accredited, you’ll need an accreditation management solution that can simplify and automate the process.

Here are several key features worth finding in a tool:

  • Electronically attach policies and proofs of compliance to standards
  • Highlight standards that need additional proofs of compliance
  • Collaborate with accreditation team members
  • Give assessors access to your proofs of compliance prior to an onsite visit
  • Conduct mock assessments and remote assessments
  • Receive alerts when standards need updating
  • Be notified of every policy impacted by an updated standard
  • Easily distribute updated policies and standards to employees
  • Track read receipts and E-signatures on disseminated policies

Once you’ve implemented a solution with these features, you’ll be amazed at how much time, effort, and money can be saved. Here’s a great case study showing how PowerDMS helped the New Berlin Police Department prepare for an onsite assessment with limited time.

5. Providing and Controlling Access

You’ve seen it firsthand—policies, procedures, and processes impact both operations and organizational liability. And much of it comes down to access. There are three important types: access for employees, access for you, and access for stakeholders.

Can your employees easily access documents when it matters most?

Easy access means anytime, anywhere. Whether at their workstation, in their squad car, or with a patient, your employees need access to important documents. Access protects your most valuable asset—your employees—and it protects your organization from liability.

We’d recommend finding a solution with a mobile app so your workforce can access documents from any device. Here are some features your mobile app should include:

  • Compatibility with Android and IOS
  • Real-time notifications
  • Powerful search
  • E-signing
  • Document security
  • Document administration

If you’re still relying on paper or mixed media to manage documents, then access is probably limited. Why?

  1. Internal shared drives aren’t accessible remotely
  2. Email wasn’t designed for file storage or management
  3. In a pinch, binders can take too long to sift through

Even some document or file management solutions like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box are limited. They may provide remote access, but how reliable and organized is the filing system? How powerful is the search functionality? These solutions may be enough for employees, but they lack key functionality for policy and accreditation management.

Can you easily access active and archived documents?

For you and your responsibilities, access means having an organized, automated system for managing documents.

Does a single, published version of each policy exist, or are multiple versions floating between departments? See the previous section on version control for more info on this.

If a lawsuit lands at your front door, can you access archived documents along with who viewed it, signed it, and received related training?

Policy management software doesn’t just make your work life easier. It protects your organization from the unknown.

Take COVID-19 as an example. Very few companies had a business continuity plan in place, so they had to react. On the fly, they had to figure out how to update critical policies (i.e. work from home, sick leave, return to work, hygiene), as well as how to communicate and track these policy updates with a remote workforce.

Can you assign different levels of access to stakeholders?

New and updated documents often require review and approval from both internal and external stakeholders. When granting access to these people, especially those outside the organization, you need to be able to assign different levels of access. See the previous section on workflows for more information.

But this type of access extends beyond workflows. With the right tool, you can create any number of custom groups for your employees and key stakeholders, assigning different rights like View Only, Audit, and Edit. These levels of access are defined by your site administrator, whether that’s you or someone else.

Problems Demand a Solution

Did this article feel like a page stolen from your work diary? Maybe it reiterated something you already knew. Maybe it helped you identify new problems. Wherever you land on the spectrum, hopefully one thing is clear—the right policy and accreditation solution can solve these five problems and more.

This begs the question, what is the right solution? Many solutions promote the same or similar features, but in practice, the functionality can vary widely. Choosing the wrong software can be expensive, and you won’t realize its limited capabilities for 3+ months, after sinking valuable time and energy into onboarding.

So the takeaway is to do your research. Be thorough. Sign up for free trials and demos. Read FAQs and valuable articles to grow your expertise. And then schedule meetings with sales representatives from your top solutions.

The good news is we can help with your research. Here are some resources to get you started on the right foot:

Still uncertain? It comes down to being proactive, not reactive. Don’t wait for something bad to happen to finally pull the trigger on policy management software. Get it now and start mitigating risk. When the unexpected happens, you’ll be happy you did.

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