To create and sustain high-quality patient care, healthcare facilities rely on effective guidance from a variety of results-driven, health-related policies and procedures. These policies provide a framework for employees by outlining expected standards for day-to-day operations and help facilities meet the many health, safety, and legal regulatory requirements in a high-risk industry.
The ultimate goal? To provide safe, high-quality patient care, achieve quality goals, efficiently use resources, and lessen risk in the process.
Written policies and procedures help healthcare facilities in a number of ways.
They help mitigate risk by ensuring facilities comply with ever-changing rules and regulations, guiding employees with best practices in care delivery, securely handling sensitive documents, protecting staff from potential harm, and working to avoid costly lawsuits.
They improve compliance to industry standards by requiring healthcare organizations to meet complex accreditation requirements, and federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
And they improve internal communication by ensuring that staff members have the information they need to do their jobs well, which makes operations run smoothly and fosters better patient care.
If you’re wondering where to start, it might help to see some examples of healthcare policies that facilities commonly put into place to follow best practices and mitigate risk.
1. Patient care policies
The first place to start with health policy examples covers those designed for patient care. A one-size-fits-all set of patient care policies will not work, as every facility’s needs are different based on the type of care it provides.
Whether your facility is a multi-state hospital, a small podiatry practice, or a regional rehab center, you should have facility-specific policies that cover the way in which your facility cares for patients.
For example, effective policies should address what types of procedures your facility performs, what types of illnesses and injuries your facility treats, when to refer patients to other facilities, and when to transfer them. More specifically, your patient care policies should explain how to handle particular medical situations, such as exposure to bodily fluids or medical emergencies.
Regardless of your organization’s size or type of care provided, a good first step with patient care policies involves asking key questions that relate to your specific facility.
While some of this may seem obvious, it is better to err on the side of caution by including potential issues and areas of concern in the beginning rather than coming across a problem later. It really means taking a more proactive rather than reactive approach.
Learn more about developing patient care policies for your facility.
2. Workplace health and safety policies
With patients at the heart of your health-related policies, it makes sense then to include a variety of policies that cover your biggest asset – namely, employees.
As the number one resource of any healthcare facility, employees need (and deserve) policies that look out for their health and safety on the job. This holds especially true because healthcare professionals face much greater health risks compared to most other industry professions.
Depending on your specific healthcare facility, you might need employee policies that cover issues such as personal protective equipment (PPE) (i.e., when do they need to wear gloves, masks, or more); exposure to substances like chemicals, infectious agents, or drugs; and any physical hazards in and around your facility. Your policies and procedures can help make employees aware of these hazards and protect their health.
But beyond that, do not overlook the overall wellness of your staff. Do you have programs or policies to promote and protect their wellness?
Just as in other industries, your wellness policies should address concerns like weight loss, work stress, healthy eating, and even on-the-job breastfeeding. All of these contribute to a healthy workforce, which research continues to prove is a more effective workforce.
Learn more about workplace health and safety policies.
3. Information security policy
The issue of security is becoming an increasingly important one for healthcare facilities of all sizes. Even for smaller organizations that lack a dedicated security team, how will they handle suspicious persons or situations? When do they sound an alert and to whom?
Whether your facility maintains a security team or not, your health-related policies should clearly explain that security, like compliance, is everyone’s responsibility.
You need to equip employees at every level with the right information and procedures so they can handle security-related situations that might arise.
Learn more about the benefits of an information security policy, and get resources for writing your own.
4. Data privacy and IT security
Increasingly, data privacy and IT security are connected in terms of hospital policies and procedures. The more technology you incorporate into your facilities, the more risks you face for data leaks or privacy breaches.
At the core of these leaks? Primarily, human error falls at the crux of these breaches. That is why it is crucially important to put in writing these security and privacy policies. They can help your facility avoid a costly error.
For example, the consequences of not complying with HIPAA could mean losing your tax-exempt status by failing to comply with new requirements from The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Or noncompliance could mean facing a stiff fine.
According to HIPAA Resolution Agreements from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), HIPAA fines can be up to $1.5 million per incident per year.
5. Drug handling
What procedures and safeguards are you putting around drug handling? Many facilities do not carry medicines in-house, while others only carry over-the-counter drugs, and still more carry very controlled and regulated drugs.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, you need very clear policies on how you administer medication, how you record and chart it, and what to do if an error occurs or inventory goes missing.
6. Administrative and HR policies
Another category of health policy examples includes administrative and HR policies. These cover all of those aspects of running the facility from a business and personnel perspective.
While caring for patients and helping them heal drives the mission of healthcare facilities, it is important to remember that they are still a business and need to operate effectively.
And, like any other business, these facilities also need policies that address general HR issues such as dress code, vacations, sick days, and shift-changes. Plus, these policies should address more health-related administrative issues such as patient visitation and bed capacity.
These seemingly mundane policies and procedures can help streamline many of the questions and concerns and help administrative staff more efficiently run the operational side of things.
7. Social media policies
The lure of Facebook and Twitter can pose some complex challenges when it comes to social media and healthcare. What are employees allowed to post when at work? What about when they are off duty but talking about things that happened at your facility?
A fine line exists between protecting the interests of the facility, the patients’ privacy, and the employees’ First Amendment rights. That is why you need a written policy that clearly spells out what is and isn’t allowed by employees.
A well-crafted social media policy in healthcare should touch on employee access, use of official accounts, online conduct, security requirements, disclaimers, and engagement.
Outlining these details can help your facility proactively prevent scandals such as an employee tweeting something offensive from an official hospital account or a staff member sharing confidential facility information online.
A social media policy can also help you effectively address and defuse problems that do arise before they do too much damage.
8. BYOD policy
Common health-related policies often include a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, which can be very simple and straightforward depending on your facility’s needs.
Everyone owns a smartphone these days. These personal devices, while helpful, also carry their own unique risks, especially when it comes to accessing sensitive work information. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean patient information; it could also mean work emails and communications or internal files and documents.
The lines between work and home are blurred these days, so creating a BYOD policy helps define what your organization does and does not allow on personal devices.
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, but your BYOD policy should focus on those areas that pose the biggest potential risks to your facility.
9. Infectious disease policy
An infectious disease policy is the set of guidelines, rules, and regulations that establish the importance of disease control and how to prevent an outbreak.
Healthcare workers have a higher risk of contact with infectious diseases than most other industries. It comes with the territory.
An infectious disease policy keeps your employees prepared and informed on best practices and regulations. This prevents diseases from spreading, keeps healthcare workers safe, and protects your organization from liability.
According to SHRM, “Employers are legally liable for both employees and nonemployees infected in the workplace."
There are several key steps to developing your infectious disease policy:
- Identify known risks
- Plan for unknown risks
- Create a communication plan
- Assign roles
- Comply with regulations
- Train your employees
To learn more about developing your policy, visit our article Infectious disease policy in healthcare.
10. Code of ethics
With healthcare being such a complex, high-risk, evolving industry, you will never be able to write enough health-related policies to cover every situation. Therefore, adopting a code of ethics policy will help determine the type of principles, behaviors, and ethics you want employees to demonstrate in every circumstance.
This organizational culture is not something you can mandate in a written document. However, you can codify and put words to a culture of respect, honesty, fairness, accountability, and compliance that your facility aims to develop.
Creating a culture of accountability in your healthcare facility starts with leadership and trickles down throughout the organization to employees at every level.
It helps you focus on your shared purpose and makes employees aware of expectations. And it fosters open communication from top to bottom. This empowers everyone to understand your organization’s goals, your mission, and the values you want every employee to demonstrate.
How to manage it all
Armed with this list of healthcare policies, you can now identify the policy work that might still need to happen at your facility. And you might even feel a bit overwhelmed at needing to keep up with all of these policies not to mention the cost if you printed them all out. These days, there’s a better way.
Forget the paper-based system of the past, as it is inefficient in keeping up with the compliance demands of today’s healthcare environment. Instead, you need a policy management solution, like PowerDMS, to help keep everything organized and up to date.
A modern but easy-to-use solution like PowerDMS provides benefits for both the administrative side and the workforce. For admins, our cloud-based solutions helps them be more efficient in how they host, distribute, and track all these policies, saving both time and money. For employees,
PowerDMS helps provide them with better access to the information they need to perform their jobs. This boosts their confidence that what they find is up to date and improves their ability to quickly search for and find what they need.
Schedule a free demo today, or if you'd like some tips on writing effective policies, download the guide below.