Maintaining compliance within an EMS service can be a daunting task, especially given the number of regulations that we must follow.
One way to look at EMS is if a trucking company married a hospital.
There are rules and regulations to abide by for an entire fleet of vehicles, from safe operation guidelines all the way down to the use and color of lights. Then there are requirements for a group of healthcare providers, which include necessary certifications such as CPR and knowledge of pertinent life-saving skills.
Not only does maintaining compliance keep vehicles and equipment running smoothly, but it can offer employees valuable peace of mind and keep everyone focused on the same goals of providing the best care possible.
I like to consider compliance an investment in common sense.
Employees know what is expected of them at all times, and they know what type of support their employer will provide to keep their skills sharp. In turn, an EMS service gains from being in good standing with regulators and from an engaged, confident workforce.
The benefits of a strong culture of compliance are immense. An organization that lives and breathes compliance can help ensure a smooth-running operation that features top-notch communication and quality providers who offer excellent care.
Journey to Compliance
These six key ways ensure compliance will serve as a roadmap to a strong culture in your organization:
- Start from the top: Backing from leadership ensures a strong culture of compliance. For certification and education compliance to stick, it starts with the attitudes of upper management, such as the board of directors, chiefs, officers, and day-to-day operations staff. Leaders must actively support all compliance efforts, including regular compliance-related reports, approving policies and having a general knowledge of the rules that govern EMS providers. Without the right tone from the top, an EMS service’s compliance efforts are usually undermined and ultimately fail. This results in issues with governing bodies, payers, scheduling and staffing.
- Commit to resources: Having the right personnel and systems in place are both vital to creating a strong compliance culture. The organization’s compliance staff should have experience in directing compliance efforts and supporting the evaluation of compliance-related risks. When it comes to certifications and education, compliance is always black and white. Knowing how to evaluate and respond to operational issues is important to maintaining compliance and successfully operating an EMS service. Systems that provide information to assist the service in complying with its obligations are a necessity.
- Have the write stuff: Developing written policies and procedures for compliance programs and internal controls is essential to adequately address regulatory requirements and an EMS service’s specific risks. Having these policies and procedures in writing sets the expectation of what is required of both managers and employees. Assessing risks before drafting these programs will help identify key areas where controls are needed. A compliance program should include how a service’s policies can be implemented from an operational perspective. This will include internal controls and standard operating procedures.
- Provide education: Providing the training for your EMS employees gives them peace of mind that they will be in compliance and acknowledges that the service values them.
- Test the system: Subjecting procedures to an independent review and audit ensures the compliance system is working correctly. This review provides an evaluation of where the EMS service’s compliance efforts stand. It also offers an opportunity to correct deficiencies before an outside regulatory audit is performed.
- Communicate more: Communication is vital to all organizations, but it can be the most difficult piece of the puzzle to achieve. With compliance-related responsibilities, sharing information is very helpful and, in some cases, required. Communicating expectations within EMS training programs is imperative. Reporting compliance efforts and noting any deficiencies should be a part of a communication strategy, especially if your state has an active medical director and/or board of EMS.