Regulatory compliance in health care is a vital part of patient care. Regulations create frameworks for best practices among different healthcare organizations. But when it comes to compliance protocols, many healthcare organizations are operating suboptimal or inefficient systems.
Two of the major issues in this regard are when healthcare organizations are running a confusing mix of legacy systems with limited interoperability, or have only a part-digitized compliance logging system. This can make audit trails notoriously difficult to keep track of. Meanwhile, inefficiencies such as double entry of data into multiple systems can lead to missing or incomplete data and avoidable mistakes.
If healthcare providers are serious about alleviating compliance problems, they need to introduce digital platforms that can automate and store information safely and securely. And they need to give their network of healthcare providers ready access to that data. But first, these organizations need to understand where these compliance errors typically come from.
No one is perfect. Even the best healthcare administrators miss information and make errors when filling out different compliance forms and binders. Unfortunately, human error can be fatal for patients. These mistakes cost organizations and regulators time and money to fix.
Human errors are especially common in the credential files for doctors and other caregivers. Regulators often spot these missing credentials when they’re checking records. This leads to physicians or nurses being pulled from their essential work, while administrators fill in the missing or expired credentials. Of course, pulling essential workers from patient care can harm patients directly.
Instead, healthcare administrators can use digital forms to gather credential information accurately and efficiently. It can be as simple as using Google Forms to collect the information and notify administrators of anything that’s missing or wrongly filled out. Digital forms allow administrators to avoid mistakes that can cost time and money.
Healthcare providers have a duty to protect patient health information (PHI). Half-and-half digital-paper systems are incredibly hard to secure. The hybrid physical-digital logging systems that many healthcare organizations currently use often lead to data breaches or lost patient information.
Instead, healthcare organizations can store their data on a cloud-based database. This makes the data accessible to multiple teams simultaneously, while restricting access to those who are authorized to view it. It also allows both staff and regulators access to key information from any device and makes files more difficult to misplace.
With data stored on the cloud, administrators can automate certain crucial but mundane responsibilities. For example, artificial intelligence systems can determine which medications need to be ordered, and can typically do so more efficiently than human administrators.
Cybersecurity is another major component in maintaining regulatory compliance. Protecting data stored both physically and digitally is a critical role of healthcare organizations. Over the past year, more than 500 cybersecurity breaches affected more than five million patients.
Avoiding breaches demands that healthcare organizations apply security technology appropriately. Compliance regulators can often provide suggestions on leading healthcare cybersecurity firms, as organizations are assessing cybersecurity vendors.
As healthcare organizations interact with other digital stakeholders—such as utility companies, research institutes and other key players—they need to provide those groups with access to their digital systems. Some hospitals, for instance, might use Amazon Web Services to transmit data back and forth. Unfortunately, hackers are taking advantage of these service providers to get backdoor access to digital infrastructure. So, it’s important to involve any and all organizations that are gaining access to your data in your discussions and plans regarding proper cybersecurity.
Large healthcare organizations can span multiple states, even countries. With hundreds of administrative staff, organizations need guidelines for how files should be handled and compliance policies should be implemented. By standardizing these important compliance processes, regulators can easily access and check compliance throughout a healthcare network.
Regulators still spend an onerous amount of time picking through procedural logs or personnel files that various different administrators have filled out and in varying ways. As with issues of human error, online forms can help organizations automate many of the data collection tasks. However, standardizing best practices will require constant collaboration within a network.
For example, if one office in the network has been flagged for a compliance problem, having a standardized compliance system throughout your organization can help you check to see if the same compliance issues exist throughout the network. Once an issue is flagged, you can figure out how to apply the fix throughout your network.
Other issues that affect compliance include climate change, which has created difficulties throughout the world of health care. Weather anomalies like a winter storm in Texas, or tropical storms in atypical regions like New York, have placed new importance on climate-related regulations regarding the resilience and preparedness of healthcare facilities.
Climate preparedness means working to ensure healthcare organizations are prepared for energy blackouts, disruption to transportation infrastructure and other weather-related infrastructure failures. When healthcare organizations lack a climate-response plan, major climate events can disrupt an entire system and exacerbate any existing inefficiencies and compliance challenges. Without a plan and the critical infrastructure to carry that plan out, healthcare organizations will have a difficult time offering meaningful services during a climate crisis.
Tracking weather- and climate-related indices like temperature, precipitation and wind speed are part of the growing governmental framework for healthcare resilience. Working with regulators to prepare resilience plans means having direct lines of communication with emergency services, as well as multiple backup systems for power, cybersecurity, water, etc. Storing this vital contact information into a cloud-based application can serve as a great resource to alleviate a potential disruption.
Taking these compliance challenges into account will allow healthcare organizations to prepare for compliance audits, but more importantly it will help institutions address issues that result in a negative patient outcome. With efficiency and preparation, healthcare organizations can create better compliance regimes that will allow them to prosper.