How digital solutions improve regulatory compliance: Facility documentation
As an ambulatory surgery center (ASC), you are constantly under the watchful eye of regulatory bodies. Staying on top of documentation is one of the most critical priorities for an ASC and, simultaneously, one of its biggest challenges. Limited resources, varying log formats, and piles of binders or folders of spreadsheets lead to poor visibility of departmental compliance, leaving facilities unequipped for unannounced surveys.
To maintain accreditation, administrators and staff have to search through messy paperwork to confirm that everything is logged; if it is not, they have to track down missing logs. These pursuits take a lot of time and energy, not to mention the constant stress they cause for staff.
ASCs can simplify their everyday compliance operations (logging, reporting, tracking, inspections, and credentialing), reduce the workload, and boost efficiency with robust cloud-based surgery center software.
Complexities of regulatory compliance
Having a firm grip on documentation without the necessary digital support is almost unattainable for a couple of reasons.
For one, surgery centers often have limited physical resources and struggle with staff turnover.
Secondly, stringent federal, state, and local regulations place increasingly difficult standards on ASCs and are continuously changing, affecting daily clinical operations and making it difficult to maintain compliant logs and forms.
In addition, maintaining extensive logs, forms, and reports using outdated methods wastes a lot of time and shifts attention away from direct patient care, especially when there’s a lack of staff on hand. Not to mention that you also need to find time to train and retrain staff on changes in regulatory compliance standards.
Growing ASCs should re-evaluate the efficiency of their documentation maintenance, from logging to storage, if they want to save resources, provide high-quality patient care, and have peace of mind during surveys.
Impact of outdated practices
At surgery centers, outdated logging and documentation maintenance practices are often to blame for a variety of problems.
Outdated practices include:
- Maintaining documentation in Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft Teams, a local drive, in emails, or in physical binders
- Completing logs/forms using handwritten notes or spreadsheets
No search or tracking features
Two of the most harmful drawbacks of using these outdated methods are a lack of search and tracking functionality.
With binders or spreadsheets, administrators and staff are forced to manually search for the data they need. This wastes a lot of time and has to be done repeatedly. It becomes especially cumbersome when there is staff turnover, since new team members won’t know where to search. Not to mention the stress of trying to find all required documentation fast in case of an unannounced survey.
Spreadsheets and paper logs can’t track and provide updates on whether a log has been completed or the necessary testing has been done. This is frequently how things slip through the cracks and aren’t updated on time. Without tracking functionality, ASC administrators need to put in extra effort to monitor regulatory compliance and ensure everything is on the right track.
Surgical facilities typically struggle with employee turnover.
Without an intuitive and centralized digital system for logs, forms, and other documentation, newcomers must be trained to become well-versed with the necessary tracking and logs. And this training has to be carried out fast so as to avoid halting daily processes.
When a senior employee leaves, there may only be a few other experienced staff members to lead the training of a new employee. And if experienced employees already have their plates full, which is often the case, training can have gaps, leaving newcomers with insufficient knowledge of standards and processes. This creates stress for both parties.
Inconvenient and error-prone organization
A system of handwritten logs and forms saved in binders or spreadsheets stored on a drive is inefficient and fallible.
These organizational methods don’t provide a good overview of documentation; if a log is missed or completed incorrectly, it can go unnoticed. Paper logs involve writing information by hand, which is both time-consuming and error-prone. Additionally, people’s handwriting may be barely legible to others, creating situations where it’s tough to decipher information. Moreover, while paper logs may be simpler to customize, the structure and format of information may differ from one log to another.
Furthermore, staff can’t just go to where they need to be to complete a log. They need to find and grab a specific binder first. Not to mention that staff will have to eventually scan those paper logs, consuming a lot of time and room on a drive. Some ASCs pay fees to keep their documentation in a storage unit to prevent paperwork from piling up in the facility, as offices often have limited space that needs to be used in other ways.
These documentation systems create lots of excess work, are cumbersome to upkeep, cause stress for staff, and entail unnecessary costs.
Accreditation bodies generally survey surgical facilities once every three years. However, they can come to a facility unannounced at any time, so ASCs always have to be ready.
Staff and administrators need to ensure that logs are completed and that all life safety and environment of care systems are working as they should. Having logs spread across spreadsheets or binders obstructs administrators from clearly viewing the log statuses, as they need to go through each log to see what is overdue, completed, or upcoming. This takes a ton of time, and things can still be missed. Administrators are aware of how fallible this system is and experience constant fear of missing something.
If a surveyor pops up at your doorstep unannounced, it’s difficult to swiftly gather all the documentation they want to review.
Physical files are fragile and need to be stored carefully with all the necessary equipment to prevent damage (which isn’t cheap). Otherwise, in case of flood, fire, or other unforeseen disasters, you can wave your documentation goodbye.
Paper-based systems expose surgical facilities to yet another security risk. Employees or other people with malicious intent can access filing cabinets and obtain sensitive information about a facility’s patients and finances. Not only will this lead to a violation of HIPAA rules; it can also put your patients in danger.
Spreadsheet-based systems are not much better, since spreadsheets can be sent to anyone by anyone who has access to them. The more people have access to a spreadsheet, the higher the risk of a data breach. And when your facility grows, the danger of a breach also grows.
How can software improve your facility’s regulatory compliance?
What should you consider when choosing regulatory compliance software?
When you start looking for software options to digitalize your regulatory compliance, you’ll be met with lots of seemingly great choices that take care of that. However, in many cases, these solutions help ASCs with regulatory compliance processes, from logging to storing, and that’s it.
Many ASCs that buy these single-service solutions later regret doing so. This happens because facilities seek to resolve one issue at a time. Instead, you need to consider all of your needs before committing to a solution. Otherwise, you can end up using many different platforms to take care of various processes. This will force your staff to switch between tabs numerous times per day, decreasing efficiency and raising the risk of missing important notifications. Not to mention that your staff will have to learn and get used to each tool.
In addition, paying for several solutions can lead to a hefty bill. Some of the most popular ASC regulatory compliance solutions cost $800 or more per month per facility.
Make sure to evaluate all of your ASC needs and look for software that covers most or all of them. Granted, it can take a big chunk of time to identify needs, research and review software options, and sit through demo calls before making a decision. But you’ll only have to do it once.
Features and benefits
PreferredMD provides a full set of features that help surgical centers always be on top of their regulatory compliance processes.
A search feature in your regulatory compliance software can significantly reduce wasted time. You’ll no longer have to manually search through binders of forms and logs or through hundreds of spreadsheets.
Just type in a keyword or filter by date, period, or document type to have the file or files you need right in front of you.
Notifications, reminders, and tracking
These are crucial features for ASCs. With the number of logs and forms you ought to complete, some things are bound to slip through the cracks or be done much later than required if you don’t get regular reminders.
Your digital solution can take care of tracking expiration dates and remind you and your staff of logs and forms that must be completed. You won’t have to stress over whether something was missed, as the software can show you log statuses.
In PreferredMD, notifications and reminders can be customized to fully meet your needs. You can schedule reminders to notify your staff of tasks hours, days, or weeks in advance, and they can receive notifications through various channels including SMS, email, or a dashboard.
Additionally, PreferredMD will notify you 30 days in advance of when your licenses and certifications expire, and the status of documents will automatically change to Expiring. This way you’ll know it’s time to prepare for and plan required inspections.
Custom log and form builder
Every ambulatory surgery center has its own requirements for regulatory compliance documentation. So it’s best when your solution provides you not only with templates from major accreditation organizations like AAAHC, AAAASF, TJC, CLIA, and CMS, but also with a flexible tool to customize these templates to fit your needs.
PreferredMD has a flexible editing tool that allows administrators to modify the facility’s log and form templates when standards change. You won’t have to review every submitted log to make sure that it fits a new standard. Just edit a template and your staff will instantly see what they need to fill out.
In PreferredMD, administrators can automate logs and forms to appear as needed. For example, some logs must be completed multiple times per day, while others must be completed once a month. Choose the frequency of log/form creation in the settings (there are 13 options, so you’ll definitely find the one you need) and pick which person (or people) to notify.
The required logs and forms will be created automatically according to the settings, and the responsible staff members will get reminders via the chosen channel (SMS, email, dashboard).
The structure of PreferredMD software lets you create, upload, and store any categories of documentation you need, without limits. You can create templates based on the default templates from your accreditation agency, or you can make new ones from scratch.
Remember when you had to dig through binders full of paperwork to see whether all logs had been completed? Thankfully, you won’t have to do that anymore with the activity history feature in PreferredMD.
In PreferredMD, administrators have a complete overview of the status of logs, forms, and other documentation. You can see all edits, status changes, duplications, and other actions (or the absence of actions) in the activity history.
This feature empowers ASCs to always be survey-ready, as administrators can oversee regulatory compliance processes in real time, decreasing the stress and pressure from unannounced surveys.
Regulatory compliance software makes logging easier and faster by removing redundant steps and cumbersome binders.
Using PreferredMD software, all staff need to do is take a tablet or smartphone with them, scan a QR code that redirects them to a log template, and fill in the fields. The completed log will then instantly appear in the system.
In PreferredMD, digital signatures are used in two cases:
- To confirm log completion. When an administrator creates a log or form template, they can choose to require a digital signature from the staff member who completes the log.
- To confirm having read instructions. When a facility rolls out a new instructions manual that needs to be read by certain or all employees, there’s no need to run around collecting signatures. Simply send staff a link to the manual and the software will require a signature confirming each staff member has read it. Administrators can require a full name, job title, and date for each signature. As a result, you’ll have a digital document with all the required signatures.
Connect logs to surgery cases
PreferredMD is a 360-degree surgical practice and facility scheduling suite. To deliver the maximum value to ASCs, the software includes surgery booking, medical credentialing, vendor management, regulatory compliance, benefits verification, and pre-authorization features all in one package.
Connecting logs to surgery cases is a unique feature that only PreferredMD offers. Staff at your facility will be able to better understand logs by checking out the surgery booking details.
This is helpful in cases when a patient stays at a facility for some time after surgery. When a nurse or physician gives the patient medication, they can log the medication, time, and dosage and link the log to the surgery case.
Everything you need to pass your accreditation surveys
PreferredMD fully automates your ASC’s regulatory compliance documentation and logs, empowering you to always be survey-ready and pass your accreditation surveys every time.
Check out the software’s other features:
Want a closer look at the platform? Schedule a demo and we’ll answer all your questions.