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Medical Waste Handling 101

Medical waste handling processes vary from state to state, but it’s important to know how to differentiate between different categories of medical waste in order to be able to properly segregate and dispose of them.  In general, anything that has come into contact with blood or body fluids (such as soiled dressings, sponges, drapes, lavage tubes, drainage sets, under-pads, and surgical gloves) falls under the category of infectious medical waste. As for the specifics, medical waste categories can, for the most part, be broken down into the following seven types.

1) Cultures and Stocks

What it is:

Infectious agents and associated biologicals, including cultures from medical and pathological laboratories; cultures and stocks of infectious agents from research and industrial laboratories; waste from the production of biologicals; discarded live and attenuated vaccines; and culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures.

What’s done with it:

Cultures and stocks can be packaged for disposal by an outside contractor.  Although states do not require it, many hospitals implement a policy of autoclaving this type of medical waste in the laboratory itself, out of fear that these highly-infectious specimens are more liable to cause infections to their handlers in the event of inadvertent exposure.

2) Human Blood and Blood Products

What it is:

Waste blood, serum, plasma and blood products.

What’s done with it:

This material can be packaged for disposal by an outside contractor.  Although states do not require it, many hospitals implement a policy of autoclaving this type of medical waste depending on where it is generated, out of fear that these highly-infectious materials are more liable to cause infections to their handlers in the event of inadvertent exposure.

3) Pathological Waste

What it is:

Pathological waste includes tissues, organs, body parts, and body fluids removed during surgery and autopsy.  From a microbiological standpoint, this type of material is not really different from cultures and stocks; but from a waste management standpoint, the States may require other management conditions.

What’s done with it:

Pathological wastes are always packaged separately for disposal, and typically incinerated. Some medical waste disposal companies have received approval for a ‘greener’ solution which entails sanitizing pathological waste through microwaves, after which the treated waste may be disposed of as ordinary solid waste in a waste-to-energy plant or landfill.

4) Sharps

What it is:

Sharps include hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, broken glass or other contaminated items that could potentially create a puncture wound or cut.

What’s done with it:

Sharps are collected separately, in puncture-proof containers.  Some medical waste disposal companies provide disposable sharps containers; others treat and return the facility’s reusable containers.

5) Chemotherapeutic Waste

What it is:

Chemotherapeutic wastes are drugs or agents utilized in chemotherapy and considered hazardous waste by USEPA-RCRA.  These are generally categorized by the EPA as P or U-listed wastes.

What’s done with it:

Due to its highly toxic nature, chemotherapy waste gets segregated in its own containers, with different labeling and colors so that it doesn’t get mixed up with the general medical waste.  This type of waste must be packaged in DOT approved containers, and removed by a hazardous waste disposal company (as opposed to a standard medical waste disposal company), after which it is generally incinerated.

6) Trace Chemotherapy Waste

What it is:

Trace chemotherapy waste includes items that have been used in administering chemotherapy (such as needles, syringes, etc.), and have come into contact with chemotherapy agents.

What’s done with it:

These items may be classified as regulated medical waste or as hazardous medical waste, depending on the type of chemical with which they have come into contact.  If the chemotherapy agent was a U-listed waste and the container meets the EPA’s empty container rule, the EPA considers trace chemotherapy articles to be regulated medical waste; however, if the chemotherapy agent was a P-listed waste, the item would have to be segregated as regulated hazardous waste (RCRA waste) and disposed of as such.

7) Isolation Waste

What it is:

Medical waste that has come into contact with a highly contagious or dangerous infectious disease – such as tuberculosis or ebola, which receives a Level 4 biomedical waste safety designation for handling as a DOT Div. 6.2 Category A Infectious substance

What’s done with it:

Different facilities maintain differing policies when it comes to the segregation and storage of isolation waste; but in general, the goal is to keep it separate so as to avoid the risk of infection.  For instance, some facilities may mandate autoclaving on hospital premises, or separate packaging and containers.

How to Keep Healthcare Employees Interested in Training

The healthcare industry is one of the places where thorough and adequate employee training and even retraining is absolutely necessary. Not only does it keep your healthcare facility operating smoothly and efficiently, but it also helps avoid potential compliance and regulatory issues, as well as dangerous or even deadly safety mishaps.

Not only does it keep your healthcare facility operating smoothly and efficiently, but it also helps avoid potential compliance and regulatory issues, as well as dangerous or even deadly safety mishaps.

While training is of the utmost importance throughout the healthcare industry, it is still difficult to keep employees motivated and engaged when it comes to learning. It’s tough to make these interesting areas for employees, and it’s not just the healthcare industry where this is a problem. Employees, in general, tend to lack a sense of engagement in learning and development, but that really isn’t an option in healthcare.

Employees, in general, tend to lack a sense of engagement in learning and development, but that really isn’t an option in healthcare.

So how can you keep your employees interested in training, so they’ll not just participate but also retain the information?

Link Training to Organizational Goals

Employees typically want to feel like they’re part of the success of the place they work. It can be motivating to feel as if they play an essential role and they’re also making a difference in their workplace.

A good way to do this is by creating a clear link between employees’ job roles and associated training, and the larger organizational objectives.

For example, you can demonstrate how medical waste compliance training will contribute to more patient safety.

At the individual level, you can also create a link between successfully creating training milestones and career advancement. Employees tend to feel significantly more motivated if they feel like they’re working on something that’s going to benefit their career.

Employees tend to feel significantly more motivated if they feel like they’re working on something that’s going to benefit their career.

Let Employees Make Their Own Training Decisions

No two employees are exactly alike, and everyone within your healthcare organization is going to have a different learning style. Some employees might prefer learning the old-fashioned way, by reading through materials and taking notes.

Some employees might prefer learning the old-fashioned way, by reading through materials and taking notes.

Others might prefer interacting with fellow trainees and instructors and engaging in conversations. You may also have employees who like watching videos or listening to audio.

The best way to keep employees more interested in training is to let them make decisions whenever possible about how they’ll learn.

Offer a variety of options and let them choose the learning paths that work best for them.

Make It Fun

Compliance and regulatory training in the healthcare industry might not seem like the most fun or exciting area of study, but as an employer, you can make it somewhat more fun for your employees.

One good way to get employees motivated and more likely to retain information is by creating a friendly competition among employees.

You can offer rewards (which don’t have to be monetary to work well) to those employees who perform well on post-training assessments.

Sometimes the reward can be as simple as recognition that can keep employees motivated.

Eliminate Unnecessary Training

You want your healthcare employees to engaged in training, but you aren’t going to achieve that if you’re overloading them with a lot of unnecessary information.

Keep training to a need-to-know basis so that employees know all of the areas they’re being trained in are essential, and they don’t become bogged down with irrelevant content.

Training employees is one of the biggest challenges faced by healthcare organizations, but also one of the most important. Tips like the ones above can make sure employees stay present in their training, and take value from it so they can then create value for the entire organization.

Tips like the ones above can make sure employees stay present in their training, and take value from it so they can then create value for the entire organization.

Top Ways To Build Patient Loyalty and Retention

There was a time when the concept of patient loyalty in the healthcare industry wasn’t necessarily a big priority if at all.

Now, however, healthcare has taken on the requirements of any business, and one of those is a strong, loyal customer base, or in this case, patient base.

Historically, healthcare and its methods of delivery weren’t seen as consumer-oriented. Most patients utilized healthcare plans with low deductibles, and rather than relying on their own research, these patients relied mostly on referrals from primary care providers.

Now, however, there is more cost sharing on the part of patients, which is leading to an increased sense of competition throughout the industry.

So how can you build loyal patients and focus on retention in your practice or facility?

Improve Efficiency

Efficiency is paramount in a competition-driven model, and medical practices, hospitals, and other facilities need to make sure they’re doing everything they can to improve efficiency and reduce wait times.

After 30 minutes spent waiting, patients tend to become frustrated, and that’s not something that can happen in today’s model of the medical industry.

Customer Service Training

Along with regulatory and compliance training, employees in medical facilities also need to be trained in customer service best practices.

The opinion a patient forms about a medical practice or facility starts as soon as they call to make their first appointment, and medical organizations now have to be completely in the business of customer service as much as anything else.

Everyone in a medical organization should be trained in customer service, starting with the administrative team, all the way through care providers and billing specialists.

Marketing and Social Media

Many healthcare businesses have been slow to embrace the use of digital marketing and social media, but it’s an essential component of patient loyalty and retention.

Social media is one of the biggest drivers of the consumers’ experience and perception across industries, and it’s also increasingly where people go to find information and updates.

The benefits of utilizing social media in healthcare include the ability to shape and impact the discussion in your niche or for your practice, and it also gives you a direct, inexpensive way to stay in constant contact and communication with patients.

It can also be used as a valuable way to shape the idea that you’re an authority, which is important to people when they’re making health care decisions.

Empowering Patients

As a final note, if you want to build patient loyalty and retention, patients should feel like they’re an integral part of their healthcare and decision-making.

This means these facilities need to put their time into creating education and informational resources for patients.

And also ensure that key care providers are trained in how to effectively communicate with patients, as well as how to help them understand their decisions and guide their decision-making process in a way that’s going to leave patients feeling like they’re in the loop, rather than being a bystander in their own healthcare.

What a Regulated Medical Waste Management Service Can Do for You

If you’re in the medical services field, whether research or patient administration, you probably deal with a lot of regulated medical waste (RMW), which must be disposed of properly according to both state and federal laws.

It’s an important part of running a medical business, since you don’t want to risk contaminating others with

However, waste management isn’t easy to handle yourself. Your specialty should be in running the business or administering to your patients, not carting off the waste. Thankfully, medical waste management programs can help.

These programs have been created to meet the needs of health institutions and can handle any aspect of medical waste services, from proper disposal to adhering to compliance regulations. Here are some of the ways that an RMW management service can help you.

Know the Ins and Outs of RMW

A quality RMW management company is extremely knowledgeable about handling and disposing of RMW in the safest manner possible. An RMW will collect anything that qualifies as bio-hazardous waste or RMW, including:

  • Pathological Waste: tissues, organs, body parts, and bodily fluids
  • Human Blood and Blood Products: blood, serum, plasma
  • Infectious Agents (Microbiological Waste): culture dishes, discarded vaccines (live and attenuated), and any devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix specimens
  • Contaminated Sharps: hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, and broken glass
  • Isolation Waste: waste from patients in quarantine

Your RMW management service will dispose of each of these waste products according to state and federal law; 90 percent of the time that means the waste will be incinerated at a secure facility.

If a state does not allow incineration based on MWI standards, the waste will be disposed of through microwave technology, steam sterilization, electro pyrolysis, or chemical mechanical systems. Your RMW management service will know exactly how your waste should be disposed of and make it happen for you.

Pick Up Services

Most RMW services will have their own fleet of delivery trucks to pick up your medical waste.

They can provide you with designated bins for solid bio hazardous waste (contaminated non-sharps), liquid bio hazardous waste (blood products, fluids), bio hazardous sharps (needles, scalpels), and pathological waste (organs, tissues). Each waste has its own processing to go through after being disposed, so the bins make it easier on everyone involved.

They can provide you with designated bins for solid bio hazardous waste (contaminated non-sharps), liquid bio hazardous waste (blood products, fluids), bio hazardous sharps (needles, scalpels), and pathological waste (organs, tissues). Each waste has its own processing to go through after being disposed, so the bins make it easier on everyone involved.

After the waste has left your hands and is set out for pickup, you won’t have to think about it again. The professionals at RMW management facilities will use the utmost care when handling the waste and

The professionals at RMW management facilities will use the utmost care when handling the waste and transferring it to the disposal site. Also, assuming the matter was disposed of correctly, once the waste has left your property and entered the hands of the RMW specialists, you are released from liability.

Improve Your Processes

If you’re spending more time worrying about taking care of your medical waste than attending to your business or services, that’s an inefficient use of your time. An RMW company can help you improve your processes and save you valuable resources.

Once you sign on with an RMW servicer, they will give you guidelines and standards to follow when disposing of your waste. That way, you can ensure that you’re adhering to all regulations and won’t have any legal problems or safety hazards on your hands.

A waste management service is especially beneficial when it comes to surgical procedures. You’re probably interested in making the operating room more sustainable and functional, right? There are several steps you can take to maintain a green operating room, and a waste management company can help.

These include educating the staff on waste management, conducting waste audits, removing waste immediately following surgeries, and offering reusable waste containers.

They will also work with your schedule to pick up your waste and arrange a time that’s convenient for you. Overall, you can spend your time helping patients and clients instead of focusing on the technical aspects of the job.

Reduce Your Waste Management Costs

Though it seems like you’d be able to save money by disposing of your medical waste yourself, that’s not always true. You could fall victim to unnecessary fees and services at disposal facilities, not to mention an increased labor cost for those assigned to take care of the disposal.

A good RMW service will help you cut through the red tape at disposal facilities and find you the best deals for their services. If you find the right company, they can actually help you to save money on your disposal processes.

As you choose a company that’s right for you, look for a service that will calculate a fair rate specifically for your company.

Too many companies will charge you a flat rate for their services, even if your waste disposal is irregular. You need a company that will charge you based on how much you’ll use the service. Also, avoid companies that will charge you a one-size-fits-all compliance fee.

With this in mind, recognize that you can find a quality service that works with you, without being forced to pay costly and unnecessary fees.

 

Top Tips for Better Cyber Security in Health Care

Healthcare facilities large and small face a myriad of compliance and regulatory-related issues, from ensuring things like medical waste is professionally handled, to making sure patient data and information remains secure.

One of the biggest challenges many medical and healthcare-related companies are facing right now is the need for more rigorous IT and cyber security.

According to BeckersHospitalReview.com, based on a report from Risk Based Security, there were 4,149 total data and information breaches in 2016, exposing more than 4.2 billion records.

Among those, the medical sector account for 9.2 percent of total reported breaches.

Not being adequately protected against such threats represents a big problem for businesses in the healthcare industry, and the following are some best practices to follow to protect your organization and your patients.

Conduct a Risk Audit

One of the biggest problems many healthcare facilities, large and small, have regarding cyber and IT security is the fact that they don’t know where weakness exists. In fact, the may not even realize what a threat cyber security issues are to their organizations and their patient’s information.

Many healthcare organizations face budgetary issues as well, however, so doing a thorough risk assessment and audit can be helpful.

It not only shows you where there are potential issues and areas where threats could evolve, but it also helps you tailor your IT security spending to only the places where it’s most needed.

Stay Up-To-Date

A big problem, particularly in smaller healthcare facilities and organizations, is as simple as not staying up-to-date on things such as anti-virus software and protection.

It’s important that everything remains fully updated, and this is best handled by either assigning a point person to ensure it’s done or setting up your system to complete automatic updates.

Additionally, you’ll want to check with the developer of your EHR software to see whether or not they maintain a connection to the platform.

Many software developers will do this so they can make updates and provide support, which is fine, but if that is the case, you should make sure there is a firewall in place.

Many healthcare organizations are also opting to request their EHR developer disable their access when they’re not working with the software.

Comprehensive Employee Training

Your first line of defense against cybersecurity threats isn’t necessarily based on the technological protections you put in place.

Even more important than that is the role of employees.

Just as with environmental and waste management compliance issues, employees need to be thoroughly and regularly trained on best practices for IT and cyber security.

Employees need to understand not just how to protect the organization, but also why it’s so essential.

Training should be held every year, even for long-time employees, because this is an area that’s continuously evolving and best practices are always changing.

Protecting the information of patients is one of the top priorities for medical facilities, and with cyber attacks become an increasing threat, it’s more important than ever to be proactive against potential breaches.

Top Ways to Improve Pharmacy Efficiency

Efficiency is a major priority in pharmacy settings. It’s essential that pharmacies and the staff members who work in them have the ability and means to fill prescriptions efficiently without sacrificing qualify of service.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain an efficient pharmacy in many businesses, yet it’s more important than ever, particularly with healthcare reform and quality ratings making such a significant impact in the industry.

Pharmacy employees are being forced to consider the meeting of rigorous performance standards, cost-cutting, and an ever-increasing push by customers to have fast service.

The following are some easy ways pharmacies can work toward improving their overall level of efficiency, even the midst of major challenges.

Perform An Audit

Before a pharmacy can really know where inefficiencies exist, they need to do a full review of processes and workflows. Pharmacy staff may realize they’re not operating at a peak level of efficiency, but they may not know what that’s stemming from.

For example, they may see customer dissatisfaction, but without knowing the root cause of where that’s coming from, it’s difficult to alleviate the problem.

Rely on Automation When Possible

When all of the pharmacists and technicians in a pharmacy are focusing on only the highest-level tasks their education or certification provides, then lower level tasks can be dealt with either through entry-level employees or automation.

This ensures that things are moving along at the peak level of efficiency in a pharmacy when higher-level employees aren’t spending their time on tasks that could be better completed either by another employee or with technology.

Focus on Employee Training

A pharmacy may already have standards in place for everything ranging from customer service to disposal of expired medicines, but if employees aren’t well-trained on these procedures they’re essentially useless.

It’s important for pharmacies to not only train new employees on standards, procedures, and protocols but also to regularly refresh that training even for long-term employees.

When everyone in the pharmacy is well aware of standardized procedures, it can remove a lot of the uncertainty and errors that lead to inefficiency.

Focus on Inventory Management

A big problem many pharmacies face is having too much or too little inventory. If some resources and time and attention can be put toward inventory on a regular basis, it can save a lot of time and difficulties in other areas.

It’s important to maximize usage of inventory systems, and do regular checks to see what moves quickly and what tends to sit on the shelves.

The National Community Pharmacy Association recommends reviewing inventory levels quarterly and comparing them against trends in the area, as well as assigning technicians to manage drugs that tend to move slowly, and returning unused drugs to their manufacturers.

The NCPA also recommends pharmacists develop relationships with patients so they can be kept aware, ahead of time, when they might need a drug that’s rare or expensive.

That way, the drug can be ordered in a timely way, but the pharmacy doesn’t have to stock it unnecessarily.

When pharmacies focus on efficiency, the result is often a greater level of patient satisfaction, which can not only make for a better operational process but also better performance metric ratings.

Why Is It So Important That Medical Waste Be Taken Care of Properly?

surgical wasteLaissez Faire can be a good idea and all, but there are certain industries that absolutely need government regulation.

Namely, the hospital waste treatment industry.

Here’s why:

A Large Portion of Hospital Wastes Are Dangerous.
There are four different types of medical waste. There’s general waste, infectious medical waste, radioactive waste, and hazardous waste.

General waste refers to the type of garbage and trash you might normally find in a household, and makes up about 80% of the waste generated by healthcare activities. However, 20% of all medical waste is still a lot.

Health care facilities generate about 2 million tons of medical and surgical wastes each year, which breaks down to about 5,500 tons of waste generated each day. That’s 1,100 tons — 2,200,000 pounds — of hospital and surgical wastes that’s considered to be dangerous, the majority of which (15%) is infectious and anatomic waste.

Hazardous Medical Waste Can Pose a Huge Threat to People’s Health.
If hospital and surgical wastes are mishandled, people could get hurt, sick, or infected. Each year, about 16 billion injections are administered across the world, but not all are properly disposed of. According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), some 260,000 new HIV infections were directly related to the mismanagement of needles and syringes.

Mishandling Medical Waste Can Negatively Impact the Environment.
If not handled correctly, hospital and surgical wastes could wind up severely damaging the environment. One of the most common medical waste disposal methods is incineration. Though it works quite well, it can actually pollute the environment if not done correctly.

During the Ebola crisis, Liberia was warned not to use old incinerators to destroy all of the hospital and surgical waste produced by the pandemic by WHO, as it could release chemicals into the air and pollute the West African country’s environment. However, the overwhelming amount of medical waste produced by Ebola forced the nation to use them.

Hospital and surgical wastes need to be handled correctly.

If not, people could get hurt.

If you have any questions about how medical waste is managed, feel free to share in the comments.

Infection Control Tips in Ambulatory Care Settings

One of the models of healthcare that is growing most quickly and becoming more popular is the ambulatory clinic. Many times large hospitals or health care networks will introduce ambulatory clinics or offices as a way to provide faster, more efficient care while reducing costs.

There are quite a few different ambulatory care settings, which include urgent care clinics, emergency departments independent of larger hospitals, and retail clinics.

While the benefits of ambulatory settings can be significant when it comes to keeping costs low for companies and patients, and also for providing care for more people with increased efficiency, it’s a model that isn’t without challenges.

There has been an increased focus by the CDC to help ambulatory clinics and facilities to develop proper protocols and procedures to keep them as safe as conventional hospitals.

The following are some tips for ambulatory care centers to maintain infection control standards that keep care providers and patients safe.

Allocate Proper Resources

In a traditional hospital setting, a significant amount of resources both regarding budgets and personnel, go toward infection control. The same should be true of ambulatory care clinics and settings.

An administrative or managerial professional should also be in charge of creating policies and standards, as well as making sure that not only precautions are followed, but also that the required supplies and equipment are on hand to prevent the spread of infection. This can include things like personal protective equipment and other hygiene supplies.

Train All Employees

In an ambulatory setting, it’s a good idea to provide all employees with some level of training about infection control.

Then, beyond general safety and hygiene training, it can also be advisable to provide job-specific training on infection control and prevention standards as well.

For employees that are already trained, it can be a good rule of thumb to implement regular retraining on an annual or semi-annual basis.

Provide Guidance for Patients

Many times people visit ambulatory clinics and care environments and ultimately are exposed to infections simply from being there and being around sick people.

It’s important that as part of any infection control plan, ambulatory administrators provide the necessary reminders not just to staff, but also to patients. This can include signage that’s clear and easy to read, and if necessary, provided in multiple languages.

This can instruct patients on things such as respiratory hygiene measures and hand sanitizing that can take place to protect themselves and others against the spread of infection.

As a final note, when you are in charge of operations in an ambulatory clinic, it can be valuable to contract a professional medical waste management company to provide not only compliant management of medical and hazardous waste but also to deliver training and relevant information to employees.

Look for a medical waste company that can specifically address the needs of your ambulatory clinic, based on size and scope of service, and also one that offers options such as OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen and Medical Waste Management Procedures training.

The Definitive Guide To Medical Staff Training

Guide to Training Your Medical Office or Clinic Staff

If you’re in charge of a medical practice or clinic, do you understand the importance of making sure all employees are comprehensively trained?

It’s possible that you don’t, but the benefits of a well-trained staff including front and back employees can mean big benefits for the entire practice.

Some of the ways thoroughly training employees can benefit a practice include:

  • Doctors TrainingTrained employees are going to be more efficient. Also, if you work to cross-train your staff, you won’t face gaps if an employee is out of work or leaves the practice.
  • Medical settings are regulated by standards that include OSHA and HIPAA, so it’s not just advisable for medical offices to invest in employee training and development. Governmental laws and regulations also mandate it.
  • Well-trained staff members are going to translate to a better customer service experience, which will help keep patients loyal and can also serve as a way to attract new patients.

We’ve broken down Medical Staff Training into several categories and have included additional resources in each section. You can click the links below to visit any section of this guide.

HIPAA Training for Medical Offices

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, is one of the most important regulatory laws impacting all healthcare settings, including even small medical offices and clinics.

The goal of HIPPA is to protect the privacy of patients and their healthcare information, and also provide guidelines as to how healthcare information is to be processed and maintained.

HIPAA rules are established by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and they not only protect the healthcare information of patients, but also outline patients right, and there are some protections offered to health care providers under the law as well.

It’s essential that all staff members including front and back employees are thoroughly trained on HIPAA, and as the regulations do tend to change and evolve rather quickly, training should be updated periodically.

Many compliance issues are the results of unintentional acts of employees, but a violation can lead to a penalty of up to $50,000 each. A violation can also damage the credibility and reputation of a practice.

Understanding HIPAA Compliance Resources:

 

HIPAA Training Best Practices

The HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security rule both carry specific training requirements and covered entities and business associates are required to provide training to staff including doctors, nurses, business associates and subcontractors. Essentially, anyone who is in contact with protected health information needs training.

HIPAA training must include not only information on the specifics of the law but also training on specific policies and procedures. There are different options available for the delivery of this training, ranging from an internal expert to outsourced training. Increasingly, medical practices are also using online courses.

When an HIPAA auditor works with your practice, they’re going to be looking for training logs, so it’s important to keep up-to-date records on all staff training.

HIPAA Training Videos

HIPAA Training Videos

OSHA Training and Compliance

HIPAA ComplicanceThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines their mission as being to save lives, prevent injuries and protect American workers. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor, and they describe state plans and guidelines to ensure all U.S. workplaces are safe, including medical and dental offices.

One of the primary OSHA standards impacting medical and dental offices is the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Some of the requirements include a written exposure control plan, updated annually, the implementation of universal precautions, safe needles and sharps usage, employee training and proper containment of regulated waste.

General OSHA Standards Resources

OSHA Requirements and Standards for Medical Offices

The most frequently referred standard impacting medical offices is bloodborne pathogens. Also important to consider in training are how various containers including sharps disposal boxes, contaminated laundry, and certain specimens are handled and disposed of.

The hazard communication standard says medical employers must have a written hazard communication program, and this also mandates employee training. Other areas of OSHA regulations that could impact medical office training fall under the category of Ionizing Radiation, which applies to any facility with an x-ray machine.

Additional Resources:

Bloodborne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms found in human fluid and blood. They can include things like hepatitis and HIV. Sharps and needle-related injuries can expose healthcare employees to bloodborne pathogens, so it’s important to not only know the OSHA regulations covering this area but also to understand your responsibilities as an employer.

Blood Bank ProcedureHighlights of OSHA training requirements on bloodborne pathogens include the establishment of an exposure control plan that’s updated annually. Universal precautions must be implemented, and employees must be provided with personal protective equipment and trained on its proper usage.

Employers are required to ensure workers receive regular training, and it must be offered on initial assignment and at least on a yearly basis after that. The training is required to be presented in a way that the employee can understand, and the employer is required to maintain a sharps injury log as well as training records.

OSHA Guidelines for Medical Employers:

OSHA Training GuidelinesTraining Guidance and Resources for OSHA Compliance

EHR and Technology Training

For quite a few years Electronic Health Record (EHR) software training has been essential in healthcare settings, and with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, that became even more relevant.

Many medical practices are moving away from paper-based records keeping and are instead becoming almost entirely reliant on technology and electronic records management. Through this process, employee training can help make for a smoother transition, and also ensure the number of errors is reduced.

Thorough EHR and technology training in a medical setting can also help employees feel more confident and less frustrated, leading to better communication throughout the office, and less staff turnover.

When designing ERH training, or any type of training for new software that will be used in a practice, it’s important to have a plan in place, and to have one or two key staff members who are trained before the rest of the staff, so they can serve as resources and guides throughout training.

It’s important that training is role-based so each employee is learning the functionalities of the software or EHR program most relevant to their job, and along with training on the technicalities of the EHR system, it’s essential that training also includes practical and process-centric elements. This means employees will learn how the software will be used on a daily basis, in realistic scenarios they’re likely to encounter.

Vendors may also be useful resources to help practices set-up EHR employee training.

EHR Training Tips and Guidelines Resources

Customer Service Training for a Medical Environment

While many of the above training areas for medical offices and clinical settings have focused on regulations and technical considerations, something that’s also key to the successful operation of a medical office is customer service training. Despite the importance of this area of training, it’s the most often overlooked in most practices and clinics.

A national survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems was launched in 2006, and it was designed to create a comparison system for customer service in hospitals, while also incentivizing hospitals to improve their quality of care and create accountability.

Role of Health Care IndustryIn 2010, the Hospital Value-based Purchase Program was established by the Affordable Care Act, and similarly, it dictates random surveys of patients, with monetary incentives for quality of care.

While these surveys are directed specifically at hospitals, there’s increasing pressure on all healthcare providers and businesses to focus on customer service.

Resources for The Role of Customer Service in Healthcare:

Training Healthcare Employees to Provide Excellent Service

Health Care Employees TrainingThere are a few areas to focus on when providing customer service training to medical employees.

The first step should always be outlining a standard of service and what’s expected. Then, training can move on to general concepts of what it is to deliver the best service possible in a healthcare setting.

This can focus on empathy and interpersonal communication, as well as soft skills. This training should also outline how to communicate with patients in a way that’s clear and concise, easily understood and there should be training on how to handle patients who might be scared, confused or generally upset with a situation.

Guides and Resources for Customer Service Training in Healthcare

As mentioned at the start of this guide, cross-training employees is incredibly valuable in a medical office setting.

Some of the benefits of cross-training employees include:

  • Medical Employee TrainingMedical practices won’t have to use temp agencies if someone isn’t available for work for a period of time.
  • There is a sense of continuity and consistency in operation when employees are cross-trained.
  • When employees are cross-trained there tends to be more documentation and rigid guidelines in how things are done, which can help avoid the likelihood of fines or other issues stemming from violations.
  • Employees tend to be more empowered and ready to make decisions and take ownership of their jobs when they’re cross-trained.

What’s important to realize with cross-training employees in a medical office setting is that while it carries many advantages, it does take time, effort and some monetary investment, although the ROI is generally much higher.

Cross Training GuidelinesGuides to Cross-Training in a Medical Practice

Creating a Training Plan

Training PlanThe above are the main areas of training that need to be addressed in most medical office and clinical settings. Every practice or medical office is going to have unique requirements that will determine the specifics of training, but the above serves as a good starting point.

Once these areas have been reviewed, the practice can start building a customized training plan.

The following are steps to follow to deliver effective, efficient and valuable training to all staff members in a healthcare setting.

  • 1 – Outline Guidelines and Requirements

planYou can start with general laws and regulatory guidelines that are pertinent to your medical practice, such as the ones listed above. Begin creating training needs and competencies based on these areas, and then move on to the specifics required of employees at your practice. You can divide training guidelines and requirements by position, or segment them based on front and back office staff.

  • 2 – Assess Gaps with Current Staff

General Clinical TrainingTo target your training and make sure it’s as effective as possible, assess gaps that might be present in the knowledge or skills of existing staff members. This will show you where to focus your training efforts, and also give you a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of training.

  • 3 – Decide on a Training Delivery Format

Clinical Delivery FormatYou have quite a few options as far as how you’ll deliver training to your medical office employees, ranging from interactive e-Learning to traditional reading materials. You can also have internal employees responsible for leading and supervising guided training, or you might outsource employee training to an expert third-party organization. The most successful approach is often when that combines several different formats, such as videos, seminars, reading and e-Learning.

  • 4 – Measure Knowledge After Training

Measure KnowledgeOnce you’ve created and implemented employee training, measure the knowledge of employees. This will help you refine later training efforts, make sure staff are adequately prepared, and you may also want to keep this information on-hand for regulatory and compliance reasons.

  • 5 – Develop Onboarding for New Employees

On boarding ProcessIn addition to training for existing employees to make sure they’re up-to-date on practice procedures and regulatory requirements, you should also develop training for new hires that focuses on these areas, but also helps them understand the cultural and “soft” expectations of employees in the practice.

  • 6 – Reassess As-Needed

Reassess As-NeededYour training should be viewed as something that’s always changing and evolving, as the standards in the medical industry are frequently doing the same. Reassess your training materials for relevance and accuracy, and also make sure employees are re-trained on a regular basis.

Resources for Creating an Employee Training Plan

Top Tips to Create a Compliance Plan for Your Medical Office

Compliance in a medical setting is essential. This can include everything from compliance regarding the disposal of medical waste, to HIPAA standards. Even small, family practices with one or two care providers need to have an in-depth standardized compliance in place, not only to avoid potential regulatory issues but also to keep employees and patients safe and well-cared for.

It’s also important for most medical offices to ensure they have rigorous compliance plans in place in order to participate in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The following are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind to create a clear, concrete compliance plan in a medical office or setting of any size.

Select a Compliance Officer

One of the biggest reasons medical practices fail regarding full compliance is because they don’t appoint someone as a compliance officer.

It’s important to designate one person to fill this role, because they’ll be able to organize compliance-related issues and actions, and other employees will have a point person to go to if they have questions or concerns.

When selecting a compliance officer, it’s a good idea to choose someone such as a nurse or office manager, and then provide them with in-depth training.

Responsibilities of a compliance officer include not only developing but also implementing the entirety of a compliance program.

The ideal candidate is someone who has knowledge not only of the clinical elements of the practice but also some level of understanding of the business and billing processes.

Create Written Standards

Your compliance plan needs to be as specific, well-documented and standardized as possible. To achieve this, having written guidelines and manuals is important. This provides an easy source for training new employees, and printed materials can also be used as a reference by existing employees.

These written standards should be regularly reviewed to ensure they continue to meet the needs of your practice.

Train Employees and Keep Records

Along with outlining the standards and procedures required in the practice, training employees and keeping detailed records of this training is one of the most important elements of a successful compliance plan.

Choose a method of training that works best for your organization. Many medical practices will contract with their medical waste services provider for compliance training, or they might combine third-party training with some level of self-paced learning or e-Learning.

Define How Non-Compliance Is Handled

Just as a compliance plan should include detailed information about how employees can remain compliant and address the specific risks of the medical practice, there should also be details included regarding how non-compliance is handled.

A good compliance plan will outline standards for how issues will be reported and then subsequently treated. For example, will disciplinary action be taken? Will there be retraining to deal with noncompliance? What will the investigation look like if something is reported?

Having a compliance plan in place is necessary for all medical practices, as a means to define employee behaviors as well as how potential issues will be tackled if they should arise.

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