Tech Tips for Compliance
How to integrate tech into your compliance plan
By Heidi Rose Bender, MBA
As the health care industry becomes increasingly regulated, the importance of an effective and comprehensive compliance program becomes even more critical to the long-term health of your practice.
Your compliance program is your protection. It shows you are invested in making sure your company is complying with all regulatory requirements as well as internal rules and policies. As those of us in private practice know, developing and monitoring a compliance program is not an easy or small task. One way you can both streamline your compliance program and lighten the administrative burden of managing your compliance program is to take advantage of technology.
Where can Technology Help
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has identified seven core elements that are crucial in building a solid foundation for your compliance plan. This article focuses on three of the seven elements that readily lend themselves to the use of technology tools to assist in managing your compliance program:
- Developing and distributing written policies, procedures, and standards to prevent and detect inappropriate conduct
- Conducting effective compliance education and training programs
- Performing ongoing internal evaluation through monitoring and auditing processes
Written Policies and Procedures
Once you develop your written policies, procedures, and standards, your next step is to make sure they are readily accessible for all employees to reference. How can your employees easily access your policies and procedures if they only exist in a binder on a shelf in the back of your storage room? Furthermore, what happens when you update your existing policies? Do you print out another binder and put it on your shelf next to the first binder? It is easy to see why the aforementioned scenarios are not optimal.
How can tech help? Consider keeping your policies and procedures on a secure cloud-based server that employees have access to whenever necessary. In addition, you can easily assign and monitor compliance tasks to ensure ongoing compliance with legislation. Instead of waiting for paper sign-off sheets to arrive via postal mail or even email, all employee sign-offs and verifications are held in one place. This is a positive for your employees and your compliance officer. Employees have ease of access to your policies as well as ease of access to signing off on them. In turn, your compliance officer has ease of access to update policies and share them with employees in real time.
Compliance Education and Training Programs
Once your compliance program is in place, ongoing training and education is a priority. There are several web-based education companies that provide compliance education as a component of their overall program. Many of them offer an administrative portal where you can manage and track the compliance education of your employees. A web-based compliance education program is an excellent tech tool to supplement the ongoing compliance training in your practice.
Online meeting applications are another tech tool that can assist with compliance education. Online meeting apps allow corporate compliance officers to conduct ongoing and interactive education with employees at multiple sites. This tool is particularly helpful for larger practices that have clinics in multiple states. The compliance officer is able to educate and open a dialogue with employees they would not otherwise interact with on a regular basis. The OIG stresses the importance of employees feeling comfortable in reporting any concerns they have to the compliance officer. Using a tech tool to strengthen the relationship between the employees and the compliance officer is another positive support to the foundation of your compliance program.
Internal Evaluation and Auditing
Auditing is a critical part of any compliance plan. The OIG wants to see that not only did you put standards in place but also that you are auditing on a regular basis to ensure that your company and your employees are meeting those standards. Using technology to assist in the audit process is an effective way to manage this core element of your compliance plan.
The first place to start when beginning to integrate tech with your auditing process is likely the most obvious: your EMR system. Did all your patients sign off on their HIPAA form? Do the minutes billed to Medicare match what is documented in the daily note? Is your KX percentage exceptionally high? All of that information is contained in your EMR. You may need to work with your EMR provider to customize your reports in order to easily access the information, but it is undoubtedly the best place to start as your EMR contains a wealth of valuable data about your practice.
In addition, some companies offer auditing programs you can purchase. These programs automate elements of the audit process, which ensures compliance standards are measured consistently. The programs allow the auditor to input answers to standard auditing questions, and at the end an audit score is produced in real time. If any issues are found, the auditor can put corrective action in place immediately. These programs also allow tracking of scores and results over time, which shows the consistency of your audit process. If you do not want to invest in an auditing program at the moment, you can automate many of the auditing tasks through the use of a tech tool as simple as an Excel spreadsheet.
The goal of your compliance plan is to mitigate your compliance risk, and technology is a valuable tool in your compliance toolbox. Tech tools allow you to easily create and monitor compliance tasks, thus ensuring ongoing compliance and minimizing your compliance risk. Tech tools also make it easier and faster to audit your practice, report on any findings, and execute preventative and corrective action.
Heidi Rose Bender, MBA, is a PPS Administrators’ Network member and vice president of operations for MRS Physical Therapy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.