To provide high-level, consistent care, every hospital and healthcare facility needs a plan. Healthcare policies and procedures guide everyday processes, from patient intake to billing. When a facility has sufficient, well-considered policies and practical guidelines in place, doctors, nurses, and staff know how to handle any given situation. Failing to follow these policies and procedures can put patients and the facility at risk.
Why Healthcare Policies and Procedures Are Important
Healthcare facilities have a number of standards they are required to meet, including healthcare laws like HIPAA, licensing rules, certifications, accreditation, and guidelines for providers, administrative guidelines, OSHA standards, and more. These serve to provide comprehensive, quality care for patients, while maintaining a safe and stable environment for everyone on the premises.
When you have well-written policies and procedures, your doctors, nurses, and staff can locate and follow expectations easily. It’s also easier to identify problems and work to fix them when necessary.
Ultimately, your policies should accomplish three main goals:
- State and uphold your goals, mission, and ethical requirements
- Demonstrate your commitment to compliance with all federal and state standards
- Set expectations for any and all agents working on your behalf
How Policies Set the Standard for Excellence
Policies and procedures act as the backbone for facility operations. They form the foundation of what to do (and not to do), how to act, who to hold accountable, and what the expectations are for everyone. Specifically, comprehensive policies and procedures can help in the following ways:
- Accreditation: Healthcare accreditation can help provider facilities stay competitive in a crowded market. This process allows accrediting bodies to study the policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with the industry standards. When your policies are easy to access — especially with the help of policy management software — it can make the accreditation process faster and easier.
- Internal processes: Staff may talk with dozens of patients, family members, coworkers, and other parties every day. To prevent human error, internal processes need to be streamlined and communicated effectively between each party. This not only reduces the potential for errors, but it also enables providers to collaborate and achieve better standards of care for patients.
- Lowering liability: No policy or standard can ever eliminate all liability, but well-considered practices can help mitigate it. Consistency and documentation are key, especially if a patient sues the practice or a staff member blows the whistle. Ensuring that record-keeping, filing claims, and billing patients all have standardized procedures will reduce the risk of expensive lawsuits.
- Patient health and safety: When treating a patient, certain standards and steps must be met. Standardizing patient care processes ensures that charting and medication changes are communicated immediately, and basic care like disinfection, meals, monitoring changes in condition and more are seamlessly carried out according to best practices. This ensures that there are fewer errors and there’s always a plan, even during emergencies.
Types of Healthcare Policies and Procedures
There are multiple types of healthcare policies and procedures your facility must create and enforce. Whether you choose to make one, comprehensive, searchable database or create different databases for each department or role, it’s important to ensure that they’re easily searchable.
For example, you might have different databases for the following categories:
- Administrative: These policies cover day-to-day operations, such as records requirements, credentials, licensing, vendor information, equipment and supplier information, and more.
- Human resources: Your doctors, nurses, and staff aren’t just care providers and administrators. They’re also employees, and it’s important to provide standards for everything from patient and colleague interactions to overtime policies, vacation, dress codes, wage policies, and more. HR policies can also stress the importance of HIPAA and OSHA compliance, as well as potential consequences for violations.
- Information technology: The increasingly digitized practice of medicine requires strong security and safeguards. Your IT department needs its own policies and procedures to ensure all systems are HIPAA-compliant and accessible only to authorized users.
- Medicine: Because medication mistakes can be deadly, establishing and following clear policies is the key to better patient care and reducing liability. Policies should cover dosage, prescriptions, requirements, distribution systems, drug disposal and inventory control.
- Patient care: This type of database should contain procedures for how nurses and doctors interact with patients, starting with admissions and including charting, patient bills of rights, disinfection and biohazard disposal, equipment, security, and more, all the way through how to discharge a patient and when. Most practices further categorize patient care standards by department, from pediatrics and maternity to oncology and cardiac units.
Remember, this isn’t a comprehensive list. Depending on the type of practice you run — and the accreditations you’ve earned or plan to earn — you may need additional databases.
Using Compliance Software To Manage Policies and Procedures
Keeping track of all these policies and procedures can be overwhelming, for both administrators and staff. Using compliance software to organize your healthcare policies and procedures is an excellent way to present the information in one easy-to-access, easy-to-update central hub. All your documents are in one place, accessible anywhere by any employee.
Compliance software makes it easy to keep everything updated: you can set expiration dates to receive reminders when policies should be updated. Updates within the platform are tracked, so you can see each version and the change history. This makes compliance and accreditation even easier. Plus, any approvals (such as board or leadership approval of new policies) can be granted electronically.