In a time when transparency is a core tenet of many healthcare organisations' codes, the functional management of policies is essential.
In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of policy itself – what is a policy? and why is it important in healthcare? – and provide a series of pointers to make sure your organisation is utilising policies as well as possible. We also explain how the Ausmed Policy Management System will make hitting goals and obtaining staff acknowledgements simpler, faster and more reliable.
What is a policy in healthcare?
A policy in healthcare is a set of rules or expectations that an organisation publishes. Policies can be rules or expectations relating to the conduct of employees while they work for the organisation, or could be expectations and principles that the organisation’s community of consumers can hold it to.
For example, think of the induction pamphlets employees receive when they start a new role within any organisation. These are often full of policies: an anti-bullying policy, a code of conduct, an explanation of the core mission, vision and goal of the organisation.
They need to be acknowledged by the employees, consumers and organisation itself so that each group can be held accountable for maintaining expectations.
Why do organisations need policies?
Policies are the infrastructure that aligns the organisation’s values and expectations with those of its employees and consumers. Without policies, organisations have no code via which they connect their offering to their consumer’s needs. Additionally, policies mitigate the possibility of a ‘lawless’ workforce: the rules set out – eg. don’t bully colleagues, provide the best care possible – protect both employees, consumers and the organisation from negative health outcomes for everyone.
What are the dos and don’ts of organisational policies?
While policies are an essential part of running a functional, accountable and high-quality organisation, there are definitely areas where some organisations shine and others… don’t.
Perform inductions: Just having policies is not enough – your organisation needs to make sure every employee has signed them, had the opportunity to ask questions, and feels confident in their ability to enact policy while working. This also goes for consumers: consumers need to be directed towards the policies before engaging with your product and services, and must be given the opportunity to ask questions.
Highlight leadership: When employees or consumers have questions or concerns regarding organisation policies, who do they approach? You’ll start to see your organisation function better overall if you have a policy leadership team or panel that fields questions, hosts discussions and enacts changes.
Encourage engagement: While constructive feedback is incredibly important, you also need to know what is working. In this sense, anonymous surveys are a great way to make sure employees and consumers at every level of your organisation are providing insights.
Allow faceless reporting: Not all organisations have a policy leadership team. Though not ideal, it can be alright as long as the organisation has someone who is publicly responsible for fielding feedback. However, the situation becomes actively negative if an organisation has nobody as the face of policy: for example, if the only way to report feedback and questions regarding policy is via a rudimentary email address, you need to rectify this ASAP. Organisation policy is the dynamic lifeblood of your organisation’s values and principles: it should be treated as such.
Irregularly review: Think of a hospital whose policies were written in 2019 and haven’t changed since. The COVID-19 pandemic probably had a huge effect on the hospital during that time, and the way the hospital functions is likely fundamentally altered: consequently, the hospital’s policies should follow suit. In terms of time frame, policies should be reviewed every 12 months.
Forget about patient/consumer involvement: Ultimately, healthcare providers and organisations are there to provide care to a community. As such, that community should be able to provide feedback following the use of an organisation’s services or product. If not, the gap between what your organisation offers and what your consumer need/want widens – and does so silently. Survey questions could include: ‘Do you feel this list [of policy clauses] covers the most important aspects of the care you received?’ and ‘How would you change/improve your care?’
How can Ausmed help with your organisational policies?
In May 2022, Ausmed announced the latest addition to its suite of organisational offerings: The Policy Management System. This system:
Saves hours spent locating, organising, distributing and observing employee adherence to the policies.
Simplifies the process for organisation managers to monitor compliance across both learning and policies.
Helps close the Theory-Practice Gap by giving staff access to the latest policies when and where they need it.
With regards to the do's and don'ts above, Ausmed’s Policy Management System creates a single line of communication within organisations that allows policies to stay dynamic and malleable while being hosted natively on the Ausmed site. Additionally, organisation managers can assign policies to groups of employees or individuals, and toggle notifications based on how urgent acknowledgement may be.
In short, this tool takes the pain away from chasing up adherence and acknowledgements while saving time that can be used to review, change and optimise the policies themselves. This means your organisation can ultimately provide the best possible care to the largest number of community members, and keep employees, consumers and the organisation itself safe while doing so.
Want to learn more?
Book a chat with us to find out how we can help streamline your organisation's policy management.