Though severe, COVID-19 isn't the first public health threat the U.S. has faced. In 2014, hospitals across the country braced for the impacts of an Ebola epidemic. In this week's Flashback Friday, compliance expert Mary Bennett, R Ph., offers insight and advice on how hospitals can an should leverage their policy management solutions during a time of crisis.
Originally published October 2014
In 2006, it was Avian flu. In 2009, it was H1N1, also known as swine flu. This year, it’s Ebola.
When fast-moving public health crises hit, one issue that always comes under intense scrutiny is a hospital's ability to contain the threat. One of the key components of a hospital’s response must be excellent preparedness, founded on well-crafted and well-communicated policies and procedures concerning safety protocols.
Unclear Policy and Procedure Communication Can Lead To Hazards
Communication issues, as seen throughout the recent Ebola crisis in the U.S., can lead to safety risks and loss of trust from employees, patients, local communities and public at large. Some nurses who were involved in the recent crisis stated that information on procedures wasn’t readily available; that the information they did have was conflicting and that pertinent information may not have been shared with all of the staff members who had a duty to know.
Mitigating the Risk of Policy and Procedure Missteps
In hospitals, developing, updating and communicating critical policies and procedures is not only a matter of providing the best level of patient care; it’s also about protecting the hospital’s reputation, complying with regulations, and in the case of Ebola, dialing down public panic.
Leveraging Policy Management Software during Crisis Events
During a fast-moving public health crisis, automated, centralized policy and procedure management tools can be leveraged to:
- Centralize the most current policies, procedures and clinical guidelines in a standardized, manageable electronic format that all impacted staff can quickly and easily access—and that can be quickly updated and re-distributed as protocols change.
- Quickly confirm that required staff have read and signed off on their understanding of critical information such as the Center for Disease Control’s Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations for Hospitalized Patients with Known or Suspected Ebola Virus Disease in U.S. Hospitals.
- Easily generate reports that show what policies and procedures were in place at the time of alleged adverse events to improve defensibility and mitigate legal risk.
Getting to Zero: Eliminating Missteps in Policy and Procedure Management
Policy and procedure management systems that are decentralized, unorganized, paper-based or otherwise difficult to manage create risk at any time—but especially during times of heightened threats or chaos.
A systematic, centralized approach to policy and procedure management through the whole policy lifecycle—draft, review, approval, reference and certification—is an important tool in the defense arsenal against any public health crisis.