Healthcare organizations are often tasked with the management of millions of contracts, including agreements between patients, physicians, and IT and other departments within their organizations. Additionally, healthcare providers also often have contracts that involve third parties, including insurers, medical equipment vendors, and other healthcare providers. What’s more, while managing a contract portfolio of this size is a gargantuan task in any sector, contract management within the healthcare industry poses unique challenges due to compliance requirements related to the highly sensitive nature of personal information contained within some types of agreements.
According to the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), it’s not just healthcare organizations themselves that must undertake crucial actions to protect the privacy of patients’ personal information. These rules also apply to healthcare organizations’ vendors and partners. These third-party obligations add a further layer of complexity both to the contracts themselves and to the management of said contracts.
While the utilization of contract management software is an important way to ease this challenge, if you haven’t taken some time to align your strategy with your software, or you’re not using key features your software may offer, then you’re likely not realizing the full efficiencies contract management software can deliver.
Follow these five tips to make your healthcare contract management software more efficient.
1. Ensure software is being utilized to manage contracts for all departments and types of contracts
The first step to using your contract management software to its fullest efficiency is ensuring your platform is being used consistently and for all kinds of contracts that exist within your organization. While contract management software provides healthcare organizations with the opportunity to improve efficiencies and security across departments and business lines, to realize these benefits, organizations must first get a handle on their full contract portfolio. This means conducting an audit of the types of agreements in existence and determining essential information such as who is currently responsible for each type of contract and where contracts currently reside. The next step is to create a company plan for digitizing and storing existing contracts in a single, organized place, as well as putting a process in place for ingesting new contracts.
2. Standardize your document library
Between changing compliance rules, the identification of more effective contract terms over time, and other factors, it’s common for standardized contract terms to evolve over time. This means even if your organization uses standardized contract types, there are likely various versions of agreements in play. But in order to minimize risk and reap the most significant benefits of your contract management strategy, it’s essential to ensure that the most up-to-date contracts are being used. You can facilitate this by using your software to set up a library of contract types, from patient agreements to employee contracts. As your contracts evolve, ensure that you replace the outdated version in your library with the latest form. Next, it’s essential to ensure that every employee involved in contract drafting knows where to access blank agreements and can access the contract types they will need to do their job.
3. Create a document classification scheme
If you’re merely using your contract management software to store your agreements online, then you’re not benefiting from the full efficiencies your solution can deliver. With so many contracts and contract types in your repository, it’s crucial to have a robust organizational system, which will allow you to quickly and easily access information when you need it. Some contract management software uses folder-based organizational structures, which would be familiar in appearance and functionality to anyone who has ever used a personal computer. You can set up folders and subfolders to organize agreements into patient contracts, types of vendor contracts and so on. Metadata features such as tags and templates are additional organizational tools that can help you to easily locate different types of contracts, which may carry differing obligations related to privacy and other aspects.
4. Enable user permissions to create a secure self-serve environment
Some industries can improve bottlenecks related to contract management by shifting ownership of specific tasks onto employees. But added security considerations within the healthcare sector can make shifting these responsibilities outside of the contracting team seem risky. Using access control features such as permission-based user roles is one way to delegate certain contract-related tasks without jeopardizing your organization’s ability to fulfill its privacy-related obligations. Permission-based roles allow an administrator to assign certain individuals access to specific contracts, and to those contracts only; you can even limit the types of actions a user may take, with access levels such as view only, download or full access.
5. Automate access logs with audit trail reporting
HIPAA requires covered entities to maintain records of all activity related to the access of protected information. This includes logins, file access, database changes and other logs. If you’re managing contracts in hard form, this would require manual processes such as sign-in sheets, which then must also be kept securely. But enabling audit trail reporting features in your contract management software can automate this important step.
Audit trail reporting keeps a record of every click that occurs within your organization’s contract management platform. It records who logged in and