For the past few years, the healthcare industry has dealt with growing state and federal regulations by increasing compliance budgets and staffing. And as demands accrue for greater accuracy, privacy, and patient data security healthcare organizations are carefully considering ways to improve compliance.
One area of ongoing concern for healthcare organizations is contract management. Contracts are required for many aspects of business, but a Journal of Contract Management report found that over 70 percent of companies can't find 10 percent or more of their signed contracts. This alarming statistic should give any management team pause, but the issue is particularly sensitive for the healthcare industry. Lost contracts can lead to serious breaches of privacy, duplications and administrative errors resulting in penalties for the organization.
Contracts Are Required in a Range of Healthcare Areas
Hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities are under constant time pressure and properly managing contracts can be an investment. Because of this, contract organization can become a persistent problem in healthcare administration.
To ease some of the time burden on employees, contracts and agreements most profoundly affected by increased regulations need to be prioritized. This can be accomplished by implementing clear policies. These policies include physician and non-physician employment agreements, vendor contracts, equipment leasing and service contracts, pharmacy agreements, managed care, affiliation and research agreements, and real estate purchase or leasing contracts.
It is crucial for healthcare industries to maintain an organized record of contracts. By implementing clear policies and using streamlined contract management tools, these organizations can reduce the decision-making burden for employees working with contracts daily.
Navigating Compliance Regulations
Some of the main compliance regulations for healthcare organizations include HIPAA, HITECH, Stark I, II, III, False Claims, Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, and Joint Commission (JACHO).
Title II of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, calls for AS (Administrative Simplification) provisions including national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, insurance plans and employers. This involves specific rules regarding privacy, security, transaction code sets, unique Identifiers and enforcement.
Privacy is paramount; health information related to medical treatments and payments must be stringently protected. Medical organizations that outsource any work must ensure that all vendors are also in compliance on physical, technical and administrative levels.
That’s because the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) officially expanded HIPAA to include all of a healthcare organization’s business associates. Software should follow HIPAA guidelines because if breaches occur, civil and/or criminal consequences could result.
This can create an insurmountable paperwork management problem if your contracts are not stored and managed in secure cloud contract management software. Cloud providers make it easy to share contracts and view those of your vendors, partners, and associates.
Taking the Guesswork Out of Contract Management
The average hospital, medical clinic or organization will likely have anywhere from hundreds to several thousand contracts with clients, vendors and organizations. With 70% of businesses reporting 10% lost contracts, this can leave you wide open to compliance nightmares. It’s clear that effective healthcare contract management is crucial to successful compliance.
Fortunately, contract management software can help. Contract management software assists in providing oversight and control over the management of contracts and crucial documents.
The following best practices provide an overview of procedures to have in place for successful healthcare contract management:
Reliability & Security
Healthcare organizations cannot afford the downtime of unreliable software. Systems must be reliable, simple, secure, and easy-to-use. Storing your valuable contracts in contract management software provides your organization with a solid disaster recovery plan and protects your business against theft, hardware failure, virus attack, accidental deletion and natural disaster.
Cloud-based software is the best choice for most organizations because each cloud provider has their own method to guarantee uptime. ContractWorks is on AWS (Amazon Web Services) and has backup servers in different locations in the United States so if one goes down, your documents have been backed up to the other dedicated server with built in redundancy.
Natural disasters are not the only thing your organization needs to be prepared for, however. More generic file storage and file sharing systems may allow their own service team access to your accounts. ContractWorks provides the ability to set strict access controls. There is no "backdoor" login which reduces the risk of unwanted users having access to information. In addition, two-factor authentication and watermarks guarantee control over your organization's privacy which is paramount for sensitive healthcare information.
Incorporating Procedures and Policies
Contracts are inextricably linked with an organization’s procedures and policies. An organization’s contract management system should easily be customizable for advanced reporting on specific criteria.
Customizable contract tags allow users to customize their documents with a ‘tag’ of any parameter they choose. Custom tags give users flexibility in reporting on data that is important to them and users can create tags with multiple values. This makes it easy for users to capture a variety of detailed information at once, instead of wasting time running multiple reports to achieve the same goal.
For example, you may create a set of policies and procedures with a HIPAA expert. You can then tag all related materials so that employees are able to immediately access all relevant information on specific compliance issues in their work. By combining tags, you could tag compliance materials with physical departments, so that employees can narrow the focus even further. It's never been easier to securely share important information with the employees that need it!
Accountability, Process Assistance and Workflow Automation
Even with a streamlined, standardized healthcare contract management process, there can be times when the flow gets interrupted.
Contracts can get stalled on desks or in inboxes, unread. Delays like these cause missed deadlines – in some cases, the contract gets completely forgotten. Roadblocks in the contract process can hurt your business relationships and cause additional issues post-signature.
Business legal departments sometimes forget that contract management isn’t just an internal process; it is one that is entwined with the outside party’s deadlines and obligations as well. Any necessary metrics can be built right into an automated system, which can send reminders to relevant parties and ensure that all aspects of contract creation and implementation get covered.
Contract Management Software for the Healthcare System
Many of the above processes can be assisted with the use of contract management software, which can be an integral tool in covering compliance concerns in a medical organization. The best healthcare contract management software will address compliance concerns with a secure, easy-to-use interface. It should link seamlessly with the organization’s existing procedures and policies, yet be flexible enough to grow along with them as new policies and scenarios arise.
Contract management software like ContractWorks helps your healthcare organization with compliance with:
1. Efficient retrieval: Use advanced search, or tag documents however you wish to create instant custom reports or find entire subsets of documents in seconds.
2. Automated review reminders: Designate when your organization would like contracts to come up for review.
3. Customizable reporting: The software allows for fully customized reporting to gain insights into contracts that require updating. Contracts created during a specific time period, or by a specific individual can be found and retrieved immediately. 4. Audit logs: Audit logs allow for immediately viewing any changes made in the system so that errors can be located and corrected.
With healthcare organizations carefully considering ways to improve compliance, contract management software has moved to the forefront as an aid for patient data security and organization. When it comes to healthcare contract management software, ContractWorks is the easiest and most secure solution on the market today. With an increase in healthcare privacy breaches, they are your ideal partner in ensuring compliance and security across all facets of your healthcare organization. Curious in learning more? Contact us today.