Are Your Hospital’s Policies Up-to-Date?

Despite the fact that technology has changed the game for the healthcare industry, many hospitals continue to manage and distribute organizational forms, policies, and procedures through the use of manual processes. Obviously, most critical hospital documents have to undergo periodic reviews and revisions, because the only thing constant in the healthcare industry is change. It is also necessary to maintain easy access to detailed approval records, which means they need to be stored along with each revision to meet compliance or regulatory requirements.

For hospitals that continue to try to do all of this manually, these types of tasks can be very time-consuming and inefficient, not to mention frustrating and stressful. Due to all of the frustration, stress and extra costs, a great many hospitals and healthcare organizations search for a better way to manage and distribute updates to these documents. Most of the time, automating these types of administrative functions would save healthcare organizations time and money. The problem, in many cases, is that the organizational leadership doesn’t pay close enough attention, and they don’t realize what is happening.

Recognizing the signs that the policy and procedure management process in your organization needs something of a make-over is the first step. What follows are indications that policy management should be a much higher priority.

  • The last time a policy was revised was decades ago. It is actually quite common for policies and procedures and other important documents to fall through the cracks to the point that they haven’t been reviewed for a long time. We are now almost two decades into the 21st Century, so if many of your policies and procedures haven’t been reviewed since 1999 or before, there may be a problem.
  • Outdated copies of policies and procedures remain in circulation and are still being referred to. Personnel in your organization should know they always have ready access to the most updated version of every policy, procedure, protocol, form, or standing order. Unfortunately, too often, updated policies that have not been updated properly can lead to an outcome that is just as negative as a policy that has never been updated. Every time your organization updates its policies and procedures, the management process must ensure that the old version is removed and archived every time.
  • Personnel can’t find a current policy or procedure. Of course, any policy management system, whether manual or automated, should also incorporate fully functional browse and search functions. That way, it is always possible for anyone to use keywords, titles and other information to find any policy or procedure easily, thus reducing the number of missed policy documents and reducing the frequency of human error.
  • Finding which version of a policy that was in use on a specific date is difficult to impossible. The fact of the matter is, there are times when your organization’s compliance, quality control, or legal departments may need to know about a specific policy that was in effect on a specific date. This happens a lot, whether the issue is an internal audit, a regulatory issue with a governmental agency, or even a potentially costly medical malpractice issue. Your policy management system can fulfill requests like this quickly and easily when needed. The policy manager also should be able to provide a clear audit trail, as well as an approval report for that document. Organizations no longer have to waste dozens of man-hours digging through boxes of paper documents to find one in particular.
  • Signatures and policy approvals are on paper or housed in someone’s email or paper mail. The sequence of revision approvals for various policies and procedures can sometimes be very important to know. Sometimes, it is possible to track the status of approvals on paper or in a spreadsheet, but that can often take several steps and be quite time-consuming. Also, in many cases, a document may be rejected and require several revisions for approval. If you are still struggling with these manual processes, you should know that an automated and comprehensive policy can not only show policy administrators and approvers where the document is in the approval process, but it can also alert approvers when action is required.
  • Personnel are unaware of changes to critical policies or procedures. It is extremely important that all affected personnel are made aware of updates to organizational policies and procedures as soon as they are made. After all, there is a reason why you update these documents. A policy management system should ensure that the right people are properly notified as soon as there has been a revision to any policy.
  • One policy has several versions that vary by department. All too commonly, different areas or departments of an organization have access to the same or similar policy, procedure or form simultaneously. A policy management system can help manage shared documents across multiple departments without having to track revisions and approvals for each one separately.
  • No one has any idea how many policies and procedures your organization has. A good policy management system can instantly answer that question for you, which is very useful. If you don’t know how many policies and procedures you have, how do you know you’re not missing any that must be tracked and/or updated.

You’re receiving less-than-stellar grades from regulatory bodies and accreditation agencies. When auditors look at your organization, they want to know it is using well-managed policy and procedures processes that ensure you are following regulations and guidelines that meet their standards for accreditation. Failing grades can be very costly to your organization, but a modern, technologically advanced policy management system can automate most process and make sure you pass with flying colors.