Policies and Procedures for Healthcare Organizations: A Risk Management Perspective
By Anne V. Irving, MA, FACHE, DFASHRM
Risk management professionals should not take lightly the complexity associated with providing healthcare services. While regulations, third-party payer requirements, and licensing/accreditation standards contribute to this complexity, formalized policies and procedures can mitigate it by promoting workplace safety, regulatory compliance, and the delivery of safe, high-quality patient care. Moreover, well-written, up-to-date policies and procedures reduce practice variability that my result in substandard care and patient harm.
The operational challenges associated with drafting (and maintaining) comprehensive written policies place heavy demands on healthcare managers. Given increasing financial pressures and the top-priority status that must be given to direct patient care, managers may find it difficult to find time to review or update policies and procedures. Deferring policy and procedure development, however, may result in negative consequences. Policies and procedures may become outdated, and those who adhere to outdated policies may carry out actions that are no longer consistent with industry-recognized practices. Alternatively, they may simply elect to disregard the policy. Either choice may result in patient harm and a malpractice claim. Evidence that caregivers followed outdated policies may hinder defense of an otherwise defensible claim.
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