- Be aware of evolving industry standards and open-minded to change.
- Keep detailed records of policy distribution and sign-offs.
- Maintain policy consistency.
Healthcare is a high-risk industry.
While delivering life-changing medical services, healthcare organizations also exposed to a tremendous amount of risk. Lives are literally on the line in your business.
That’s why risk mitigation in healthcare is incredibly important. But it can also be incredibly complex.
Healthcare organizations not only have the responsibility of providing the best possible care for patients. They also must securely handle sensitive documents, protect their staff from potential harm and work to reduce litigation risks.
Of course, it is impossible for any healthcare organization to eliminate risks completely. But effective policy management is a foundational first step in mitigating risks and managing exposure where it may arise.
In an organization with so many moving parts, it’s very important to cover all your bases when it comes to policies and procedures. And in an industry that regularly deals with life-and-death scenarios, this becomes even more crucial.
Having everything laid out in detail – and making it all accessible – could play a prominent role in both mitigating and managing risk in your organization, protecting your company, employees, and patients.
But effective policy in health care goes beyond merely preventing risk and harm. Providing clear policies to which your employees can comply also enables them in professionalism and service to the patients or clients with whom they work.
All of these things can strengthen your organization as a whole.
As you prepare to update or rewrite your policies to mitigate risk in your healthcare organization, consider the following points.
Be aware of evolving industry standards and open-minded to change
As you know, the world of healthcare is always advancing through new research and other discoveries.
In a busy organization like yours, it can be easy to let policy reviews fall by the wayside. However, constant growth and improvements should actually serve as a motivator to revise and rewrite policies, not a distraction from it.
Using older policies can be risky, as healthcare laws and best practices change alongside current research.
For this reason, being adaptable is a key aspect of mitigating risk. According to the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, “healthcare risk managers must adapt and be proactive in developing and implementing initiatives that enhance organizational performance and productivity while improving patient outcomes.”
This principle should apply to your policies, too.
In a high-risk environment like healthcare, it’s especially important to be willing to reshape old processes and policies. This will help you can keep all your documents congruent with industry standards.
The University of Scranton recommends following directive of governing organizations such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) to ensure compliance.
Staying open-minded and adjusting policies in the midst of new healthcare legislation is also crucial.
Regularly update policies to meet industry standards and address risks
How can you make sure your policies are up to par when it comes to risk management?
Get your updates on the calendar.
Start by scheduling regular reviews of all policies to ensure they meet accreditation and industry standards and address areas of risk. Of course, industry standards and risk managers can help anticipate common risks.
Since some areas of risk differ from organization to organization, healthcare centers should also actively adjust policies to meet their organization’s specific needs.
Organizations should also encourage open communication among staff to help identify problem areas and ensure the proper accountability measures are in place.
This should include things like retaining and disposing of patient records, preventing falls and accidents and ensuring accurate billing.
Take your policies online
Rethinking how you store your policy documents could be another crucial step in mitigating risk.
For example, having all your documents in one, central location ensures your employees can access your policies whenever they need to, making compliance more likely.
Cloud storage could also save time that might otherwise be spent on rifling through file cabinets. In addition, how you store data could protect your organization from losing valuable patient information.
For instance, storing data digitally can ensure files and records don’t get destroyed by local disasters like floods or tornadoes.
In addition to making access and distribution easier, online policy storage has a number of other benefits.
There are many other helpful features in a cloud-based policy management software that could affect risk mitigation in your organization, like training, testing, audit trails and document control.
Train and test your employees on their understanding of policies
In order to actually reduce risk, organizations have to be able to prove that they took the necessary steps to inform and train staff members about their policies.
Implementing a training program on your policies to get everyone on the same page is a great first step. If you want to be cost-effective and save time, consider bringing your training online.
With a training management software like PowerDMS, you can educate your employees on policies anytime, anywhere, at their pace.
Online training could be especially helpful for employees who frequently work outside the office.
You can also use PowerDMS to test your employees’ knowledge of your policies with customizable testing.
This feature is important for two reasons.
First, testing ensures everyone in your organization actually knows how to apply your policies when it matters most.
Second, having electronic records of these tests could be very helpful in instances of litigation or other claims.
Keep detailed records of policy distribution and sign-offs
Similar to testing and training, audit trail features can buffer you from accusations of negligence.
As you know, simply having great policies won’t do much good for your organization when it comes to mitigating risk. Your employees need to not only view your policies but understand and sign off on them.
Mistakes happen, but documenting when employees read new or revised policies can help protect against negligence claims.
Document management software like PowerDMS has an audit trail feature, which allows you to keep track of who signed off on what and when.
Unlike stacks of paper documents, software allows you to quickly and conveniently view these records. These signatures could provide crucial evidence in litigation situations.
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.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent this potentially serious issue.
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.
Working from a single source of truth as you develop your policies and using a document control feature with online software could prevent many problems.
In addition to mitigating risk, managing your documents closely makes organizing and distributing your policies much simpler, which benefits everyone.
The benefits of effective and clear policies
Ultimately, your policies define your organization and shapes its daily operations.
Whether you take steps toward mitigating risk by rewriting your policies or taking your current policies online, being more vigilant in policy management will only benefit you down the road.
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.