Can Technology help you become a better Healthcare Manager?

Healthcare management is all about ensuring the best outcome for a patient and technology has a big part to play. Laws and legislation exist to ensure that patients are treated fairly and with dignity and respect. Healthcare organizations create policies and procedures to ensure that the laws, legislation and relevant regulations are adhered to. 

With the development of new technology, it is becoming easier for people to manage compliance in healthcare organizations. Technology can help with:

  • Gathering data
  • Preserving and storing the data in electronic format
  • Maintaining access to the data as long as needed and
  • Disposing of old, obsolete or no longer needed records.
image depicting compliance in healthcare

Healthcare Policy Management

Having a robust system for policies and procedures is essential in healthcare. Organizations must rely on an efficient and effective medical records management system to achieve excellent patient care and outcomes. Medical records contain sensitive information and are subject to strict regulations. Because of this, medical records must be handled and stored by following strict and well-defined policies and procedures.

The sections below provide a high-level overview of the different aspects of creating and managing policies and procedures in healthcare environments.

Creating and formalizing policies and procedures

The initial creation of policies and procedures needs to involve lots of different people. Medical technicians, policy writers, administrators and legal teams can all help define the correct wording for documents. Collaboration is therefore essential between the different parties. Technology can play a big part here. 

There are many different collaboration platforms available. Whatever you choose, your collaboration platform needs to provide an area where all contributors can create and maintain the document.

SharePoint or Microsoft Teams, for example, provide team sites with document libraries, task lists, and discussion groups. Granting access permissions to the correct people means that no unauthorized person can get access. Document approval flows can ensure the correct final approval and sign off is granted.

These collaboration platforms can also ensure that all critical decisions, together with the different points of view of the various parties involved, are fully documented and available for future discovery (discussion groups are great for this).

Effective training and understanding

After your policy or procedure is finalized, you must ensure the relevant employees know about it. Rather than just giving everyone a copy, training, meetings, announcements, or other media may help to spread the word. Whatever method you choose, it should aim to ensure the information recipients fully understand the contents. Tests, quizzes or exams can be used to ensure that the required level of understanding is achieved.

The benefit of using IT systems to distribute information is that automatic records can be kept of who was sent what information. These can save considerable amounts of paper, time and effort.

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Good communication

Open communication options are essential for effective policy adherence. Anyone should feel able to ask for more information or help understanding the requirements of a policy or procedure. Also, anyone spotting problems, violations or non-conformance should be encouraged to speak up without fear of recrimination. Whistle blowing on colleagues will not be easy. Yet, turning a blind eye or saying nothing can have disastrous consequences.

Surveys or questionnaires can be issued with responses recorded anonymously. The key here is for employees to trust in the anonymity of the system, so they feel safe in providing incriminating evidence.

Remember the ultimate aim is to ensure that all relevant people understand what is required. Patient care, safety and outcomes may depend on that understanding, so spending extra time making sure everyone knows what is expected will be worth it.

Disciplinary guidelines to ensure compliance

It is beneficial to use an IT system that proactively distributes new policies or procedures as they are published. You also want employees to complete the training and understand the information as soon as possible. Efficient employees will keep on top of compliance tasks. However, inevitably there may be some who struggle with them.

It is, therefore, important to establish what actions should be taken if employees do not complete compliance tasks. You may need several steps of potential action, from escalation to line managers to dismissal. Each step should consider how violations are identified, confirmed, reported and resolved.

Whatever steps are deemed necessary these should also be communicated openly, so consequences are fully understood. The final step should always incorporate learning from the situation to ensure it cannot happen again.

Auditing, monitoring and reporting 

No compliance system is complete without comprehensive reporting. It's impossible to say whether you are compliant without proof. Exception reports can be set up to flag issues as soon as they arise. Team and management reports can ensure that employees at all levels are fully aware of their compliance statuses as soon as they arise.

Regular system audits can also help to ensure all compliance risks are covered. Not only should the policies and procedures be checked, but also the system itself to ensure that it is still relevant and effective. Full audits may only be needed annually, with smaller partial audits occurring more frequently. Each organization must set its internal audit schedule that reflects its risk and situation.

Practical tips to improve care protocols with technology

Here are some other handy tips where you can use technology to assist with the management of policies.

1. Set reminders to ensure policies and procedures are reviewed regularly. Are they up to date? Do any need refreshing / revising? Reminders can be set using workflows, or by simply adding an event into an online calendar.

2. Store all policies and procedures in a central location, so everyone knows where they are and can find them quickly when needed. This used to be a filing cabinet, but an online file store can be accessed from anywhere with the right permission. SharePoint / Office365 or Microsoft365 have great functionality (including search) to help with this.

3. Use a standard template for all procedures. Create a blank template that is reused for all procedures. Make sure the format is locked so no one can overwrite it, they must save it with a new name first. Reusing the same format will mean that anyone looking at it will know where the information they need will be on the page. Check out our free downloadable policy templates here.

4. Monitor non-compliance. Reporting tools can often be used to monitor non-completion of compliance tasks. Set up reports for high-risk policies or procedures. You may need to consider restricting healthcare providers access to resources, equipment or medicines if they haven't been fully trained or reach the necessary standards.

5. Streamline each policy as much as possible. Trying to eliminate unnecessary detail whilst ensuring all essential information is included can be tricky. Consider inserting pictures or diagrams as sometimes a picture can speak a thousand words. Also, if your documents are stored and accessed electronically, the picture quality won't be compromised when printing paper copies.

How do you know if your policies are fully understood?

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Healthcare organizations are required to comply with many different regulations, including HIPAA and GDPR. These regulations are designed to protect patient privacy, which is a concern for every healthcare business. The benefits of having a compliant organization include better patient care, improved relations with regulators, and less risk of being fined or sued. Healthcare organizations should prioritize compliance because it can help them avoid fines and lawsuits that could put them out of business.

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