It is not always exciting or fun when it comes to writing policies and procedures manuals for healthcare organizations. In fact, it can sometimes be daunting trying to compose such documents and even require a hefty investment in terms of effort, time and attention to detail. With over a decade of experience advising healthcare facilities, we have come to find that it is imperative that the final product must reflect the values of the facility while outlining processes for day-to-day activities, and ultimately preventing risk. It is important that before being disseminated to employees, policies must undergo a multi-step process of writing, reviewing and approving. Considering our experience in the field, we have come to know it process inside and out, and are committed to assisting you to get it right. With that said, we realize that our offerings may not always be the best fit for every healthcare organization and that another vendor may have a better offering; regardless, we remain committed to helping you ensure you are on par with your management of policies and procedures manuals.
Standardization of the format of your policies is a good first step in writing effective healthcare policies and procedures. Inconsistency in policy formats may arise due to decentralization of policies in many healthcare organizations. It is recommended that in order to achieve a consistent look for policies, the documents should embody the corporate logo, an appropriate legal disclaimer, and the inclusion of all relevant policy sections. Using numbers to label policies can appear to be extremely useful, especially in larger organizations, such as IDN’s and multi-site health systems.
Upon the completion of standardization of the format of the policies, it is now time to shift the focus to writing the actual content. Nowadays, healthcare facilities are required to adhere to more and more regulations from HIPAA and the Affordable Care act, to state, provincial and local regulations. Effective policies act as guides to help healthcare organizations be in compliance with such regulations while establishing values, ethics, commitments and social responsibility. Within predefined limits, effective policies help staff members to understand their obligations and what is required of them. In addition to acting as guides, policies also provide a general strategy to leadership on how to handle various ethical issues as they arise.
Policies Versus Procedures
Healthcare procedures establish a clear plan of action to implement the healthcare organization’s requirements stated in its policies. Procedures provide a step-by-step guidance to staff members in order to help clarify guidelines and hence eliminating any misunderstanding that might otherwise arise. They act as guides by explaining exactly how to take action in certain situations and when. In addition, they also provide acceptable alternatives if need be. In order to help prevent staff members from wandering off the appropriate path, a procedure can be visualized as a road map, giving direction and highlighting details.
In order for them to be effective, healthcare organizations should ensure that their policies and procedures are in compliance with the regulatory standards and are easily accessible to the staff. This will ensure that employees are on par with the policies and are creating a safe environment for the patients. A 2000 report from the US Institute of Medicine found that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die from preventable deaths each year in hospitals in the United States, and much more suffer from preventable injuries. The report also stated that a yearly estimated cost of between $17 billion and $29 billion that resulted from adverse events in hospitals. One of the IOM report’s key conclusions was that majority of medical errors were the result of faulty systems, processes, and conditions, including policies and procedures.
From a legal standpoint, one of the most important purposes of policies and procedures is to serve as a tool for liability risk management. For example, if a lawsuit is filed against the healthcare organization, defense lawyers must demonstrate that policies and procedures were in place, up to date, and that employees complied with them. Not having effective policies in place puts your organization at great risk.
Writing effective healthcare policies and procedures is critical to ensure that your organization’s activities align with its stated values, your day-to-day activities are consistent, and adverse events are prevented. They provide clarity to employees when dealing with processes that are critical to the healthcare organization, including patient safety, regulatory requirements, and legal liabilities. Although writing effective policies can be a time-consuming task, the benefits are immeasurable.
At PolicyMedical, we always strive to aid all healthcare professionals to write effective healthcare policies and procedures. Once these documents are created, some healthcare providers might find our software right for managing them, or in other instances, they may find another vendors software more suitable. In order to help make an informed judgment on this, please feel free to contact us to discuss more. It is also possible to explore the wide range of content in our Knowledge Center or request a no obligation demonstration to see PolicyManager in action.