With technology growing at an exponential rate, more and more healthcare organizations are adapting to the digital era. This means that the days of binders and papers stacking up our desks are being left behind. With that said, the way policies and procedure manuals are being handled is shifting as well. With the digitization on the rise, it is only natural that this requires a culture change within the healthcare organizations as the staff and leadership need to adapt to this phenomenon as well. Being in the healthcare industry for over a decade, we have been part of this evolution and continue to transform ourselves along the way. Hence, we realize the confusion and how overwhelming such a drastic change can be. Considering this, we decided to help clear out as much as we can by providing in-depth description about the basics of healthcare policy management and what it entails. Our policy management software, PolicyManager, helps thousands of healthcare facilities to manage their policies painlessly so they can concentrate on their primary tasks. However, we realize that we may not be for every organization and that another vendor may have a better offering; we’ll let you decide.
Policy management is the process of creating, communicating, and maintaining policies and procedures within an organization. In healthcare organizations, an effective system of policy management is imperative to ensure the safety and productivity of patients and staff, while minimizing risk and maximizing efficiency. In recent years, as technology has advanced and new regulations have come into effect, the field of policy management has had to evolve quite rapidly. Gone are the days of paper and binders; today’s policy management systems are more portable, secure, and easier to use than ever before.
Before delving to policy management, it is important to have an understanding of what policies are and what purpose they serve. A policy is a living document that conveys the rules and guidelines under which a healthcare organization operates. Policies are a body of shared knowledge used to influence the various facets of organizational culture—ethical, social, professional, and legal.
In addition to guiding operations within the healthcare organization, policies also foster credibility with patients, partners, and the wider community. When an organization’s policies are intact and well managed, they can be sure that they remain in compliance with various regulatory and accrediting bodies. Staying accredited is imperative for most hospitals’ funding and reputation. Additionally, policies protect an organization from litigation by creating a paper trail in the case of legal action.
Policies are critical for employees of all levels – from doctors and nurses, to administrators, engineers, and other staff. For example, front line staff requires policies to be quickly and easily accessible when performing new or unfamiliar procedures. This will ensure that employees are following proper procedures, preventing mistakes, and creating a safe environment for patients and employees. Because of the aforementioned accreditation and legal concerns, policy management should also be a priority for Quality and Compliance Managers and other administrative staff.
Policy management can be described in the following four step cycle:
- Creation: When a need is identified within an organization, a policy is written and goes through an approval process.
2. Communication: After creation and approval, a policy is communicated to staff. This includes publication of the policy, training, and attestation.
3. Management: Throughout the life of the policy, it is consistently enforced and exceptions are managed when applicable.
4. Maintenance: Policies are reviewed regularly, updated, and archived when necessary.
Policies, procedures, employee handbooks, and codes of conduct have always been ubiquitous in healthcare organizations. However, “policy management” is a relatively new concept. Despite this, policy management has undergone radical shifts since it’s inception. Original policy management systems were simply sheets of paper, stored in binders, and accessible in various locations throughout the hospital. This method was sorely inefficient. Accessing policies required a great deal of time flipping through pages.
Following paper and binders, many healthcare organizations transitioned to utilizing their intranet for policy management.
This was a major stride, and allowed policies to be stored electronically, and be easily accessible at any computer system-wide. It also included a basic search function, which allowed policies to be located more quickly and easily.
As the importance of policy management in healthcare became evident, several policy management software vendors appeared on the scene, with server-based policy management software to boot. Though this software had a wealth of features and benefits for creating, editing, and accessing policies, there were several drawbacks. Hospital staff was only able to access policies while logged into the local network. Additionally, installing and updating server-based software required an engineer to be present on-site for several hours.
Today’s cloud based policy management systems allow individuals to access the same type of software, without needing to install any files on local servers. Policies can be accessed from anywhere with an established Internet connection. Cloud based policy management software can be deployed remotely, in minutes, rather than hours. These systems not only help you effectively manage the entire policy life cycle, but many also have the capability to link with other documents such as forms and contracts, or relevant standards and regulations. Many contain training modules right within the system, making it easy to track employee comprehension and compliance.
Now that you understand the importance of efficient policy management, what can you do? The following steps can help you set a foundation, as you prepare to upgrade your current system.
- Find a Policy Administrator – The policy administrator is the person who will be the resident expert for your policy management system. Their responsibilities include maintaining and distributing policies and procedures, providing training, and compiling policy data.
- Create a Policy Committee – A policy committee will help you keep your policy initiative on track and your policies up to date. Policy committees allow for centralization of thought and open communication about your policy management process. The committee should meet regularly and consist of key stakeholders from various departments, including Nursing, Quality, Administration, Education, and IT.
- Standardize your Policy Format – Organizational changes, including merges and regulatory changes, can lead to inconsistent policy formats. It is best to achieve a consistent look and feel for your policies, with a corporate logo, an appropriate legal disclaimer, and the inclusion of all key policy sections. This will also help streamline the policy creation process.
- Assess your current approach, and create a policy on policies – Take a look at your current policy management process. What is good about it? What needs to be improved? Your policy on policies will set out the process for writing, reviewing, approving, and maintaining all organizational policies. It should be written with regulations and standards, organizational norms and expectations, and your proposed policy management system in mind.
- Delegate Responsibilities and Control Access – Your policy management system should allow you to delegate responsibilities and levels of access to specific individuals. While some individuals require access to all policies and full authority to edit them, others should only have access to view a select set of policies.
A comprehensive, cloud-based policy management system should be a major priority for healthcare organizations. Such as system can support the organization’s activities by communicating boundaries and expectations, establishing a culture of compliance, protecting the organization from litigation, and ultimately helping achieve stated objectives. Simply having a set of policies is not enough. In today’s ever-changing regulatory environment, it is critical to set a solid foundation, and to identify a policy management system that can adapt to the needs of your organization.
At PolicyMedical, we strive to develop powerful policy management software in order to help healthcare facilities to better manage their policies and procedure documents. Our cloud-based system is extremely easy to implement, without compromising the security of your documents. It is through our best intentions that we continue to help healthcare facilities establish a culture of compliance so they can achieve their objectives. However, despite our best efforts, we realize we cannot cater to every organization’s needs and that there may be another vendor that can offer a better suited product. Regardless, we are more than happy to help you come to a conclusion, even if it means another vendor is the right option. Please, do not hesitate to contact us, should you need any guidance. Alternatively, you may book a free demo to see our solutions in live action.