The Big Picture
by Don M. Cross, D.C.
Change can be frightening. Learning new ways to do things is stressful. Old habits are comfortable. Routines allow us to function with little thought about why. Responsibility forces us out of those old habits and routines. The new government regulations push our clinics into a new level of responsibility. With your new office manual in your hand, you hold the future of your clinic. This future clinic will be more organized, more efficient, and a safer environment for your staff and your patients. Those are grand goals that we should all strive towards on a daily basis.
This is not an immediate change, not an over-night transition, but a step-by-step process. As you read and review your new policies and procedures, many are very similar to the “old way” that you operated. Some may be the exact way you “used to do” something, but now it is written down in clearly stated formal manner. Some may be totally new in concept and may require a totally new way to look at how you’ve been doing the same process over and over, with no thought to why you did it in that manner. It was just the way we did it. By following these new methods, the amount of risk is lessened. The amount of concern you had in the past about “am I doing this the right way” disappears and becomes confidence in your new procedures. The building of this confidence is a step-by-step process as well.
The Compliance Manager (CM) becomes the guide that leads your office forward. The CM determines the timing of the introduction of your policies and procedures. The CM monitors how each section is brought into play. Some will be used immediately; others will only be utilized when the need arises. When hiring a new employee becomes necessary, the CM will now have a specific plan to follow, with “safe” questions to ask and a guide for those involved to follow in choosing the best person for the position. Those new policies and procedures are not utilized until the new person is needed. Once hired, the CM now has a process that covers how that new employee is orientated and trained for their new position. This formalized process ensures that your new staff member becomes a well-trained and productive asset to the practice.
A large percentage of the actual changes to your daily operations involve simply documenting that an action was completed. When a fax is sent to an attorney, a log entry is made. A simple action, which leaves a paper trail for later review, that only takes a moment to accomplish. A referral is made and now there is a form to be completed that ensures that the patient follows through. Which fosters more consistent compliance by your patients, something good for the patient but which also lowers the risk for the doctor. The CM will assign these new tasks and will provide the logs and forms needed, all of which were provided by the new manuals.
Many practices have used the same patient forms for many years. The same is true for many of the internal operations, such as verifying insurance coverage. The CM now has a complete set of new forms, many with new legal language included to meet the new regulations, but also new forms that address the changes in how insurance coverage is today. Now you have new professional looking forms that appear crisp and fresh, rather than off-centered copies of copies of copies. This not only improves the professional appearance of the office, but also improves the efficiency of simple day-to-day operations. With a better process to verify insurance benefits the result becomes fewer denials and faster payments.
The big idea revolves around staying focused on the result of the new policies and procedures. Not grumbling and complaining about being forced to do something by the government. What you are being “forced” to do is improve your operations and step up your game. The end result is a smoother operating practice with a significantly decreased risk of law suites or fines, butwhich also increases the profitability of the clinic over time. That’s a good thing.