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Today's technological and regulatory environment requires a new culture

November 18, 2016
Health IT
From the November 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By Saud Juman

Maintaining accurate and up-to-date records of all policies and guidelines regarding each facet of any health care organization has become absolutely necessary. While this could once be done with traditional means of paper-based manuals and forms, 21st century medical institutions require the most modern tools for policy, procedure and protocol management. Hospitals and other care providers have always had to carefully stipulate guidelines for all aspects of their services, including rules for medication administration, lab policies, privacy policies, HR policies, finance policies — across the gamut of medical care and management.

The uppermost motivation for establishing definite, in-depth and accessible policies is to preserve patient and employee safety. All caregivers and staff must be trained and constantly apprised of critical standards and procedures that insure proper processes in every sector of medical facilities.

New regulatory and technological pressures
The demand for clear protocols, however, has become more explicit with increasing regulatory requirements and the need to address massive amounts of data, as medical records and technologies have been computerized and moved online.

With the Omnibus Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and legislation associated with the Affordable Care Act, new provisions can result in significant penalties for a slew of potential violations if policies are not followed to the letter. All regulatory bodies require formal documents that can be provided as evidence of a hospital’s policies and procedures, employees’ knowledge of these policies and procedures, and patients’ awareness and agreement with them.

To insure that the files and documents that constitute the legal and contractual foundation of service delivery are readily available in the latest iterations, they must be systematized with the newest data management technologies and methods.

Specific policy examples and risks involved with mishandling them
Provision of Care Policies are the most important records that must be established, revised and made immediately accessible. But policies not directly related to patient care are also essential to the functional workplace. HR policies for hiring, training, staff rights — even vacation days — have to be administered on behalf of employees and employers. Information management is ever more important, as HIPAA regulations direct confidentiality, documentation, storage and release of medical records.

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