Healthcare Industry Stays In Line With Online Compliance Services

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By P.J. Heller

Compliance by the healthcare industry with the myriad rules and regulations issued by a variety of governmental agencies — from the federal level on down — can often be a major challenge. Missteps, either unknowingly or willful, can have serious, and sometimes expensive, repercussions. 

“It is nearly impossible to overstate the complexity of healthcare compliance,” says Michael L. Smith, an attorney at The Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, FL. “The avalanche of laws, rules, regulations and standards that apply to healthcare organizations and healthcare providers is daunting.

“Many people consider the Internal Revenue Service code to be an overwhelming mass of overly complex laws, rules and regulations. The laws and rules applicable to healthcare organizations and providers are far more numerous than the IRS code, and significantly more complicated,” he says.

Bob Spurgin, head of Spurgin Compliance Consulting in Irvine, CA, and one of the nation’s leading authorities on healthcare waste management policy, training and compliance, agrees.

“There are a myriad of compliance requirements for any licensed healthcare facility or waste services provider and they non-comply at their peril because the fines and punishment can be very severe,” Spurgin says.

Industry experts agree that governmental regulation and oversight will only continue to grow.

“There are core federal requirements that come from a diverse number of agencies,” Spurgin says. “You’ve got the Environmental Protection Agency. You've got the Drug Enforcement Administration. You've got OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). You've got the Department of Transportation. All of whom can impact even as small a practice as a dentist.”

In addition to those agencies, state and local governments may impose additional requirements, he adds.

“Compliance management can be headache-inducing for many care providers and the area of compliance is not getting any less complex,” notes James Johnson, managing director at MedTech Breakthrough, an independent organization that recognizes top companies, technologies and products in the global health and medical technology market.

One of those companies most recently recognized by MedTech Breakthrough was MedTrainer, which was honored for its all-in-one software compliance management suite that helps healthcare providers streamline management processes and simplify compliance.

“As the healthcare industry faces growing regulations and shrinking budgets, it’s becoming more difficult for healthcare organizations and individual providers to keep up with compliance education requirements and provide top care to their patients,” says Steve Gallion, chief executive officer and co-founder of MedTrainer, headquartered in Redlands, CA.

Companies such as MedTrainer and Spurgin Compliance Consulting are among those that offer online or on-site training to help healthcare facilities and medical waste haulers — as well as others — maintain compliance.

MedTrainer offers strictly online training; the company was founded in 2013 and officially launched its software in 2016. Today, the company boasts that it supports more than 300,000 healthcare professionals at 15,000 healthcare sites in the United States. It also serves businesses in Mexico and Canada.

Spurgin offers both online and on-site/classroom training and licenses and distributes the MedTrainer software. Founded in 1989, it began offering online training in 2017.

Spurgin says he still offers classroom training for people who are entrenched in “old school ways.”

“It's not a choice of whether you will do this or not,” he says. “It's how do you want to do this.

In most cases, he notes, “once people start online programs, they're hooked and they won't go back. It’s trending more and more towards the online . . . ”

Obvious advantages of online training include the fact that people can work at their own pace, can go back and review different modules at any time and receive notifications for such things as renewing their certifications. The online modules also allow software developers to easily update their programs to remain current with applicable regulations and to customize them to fit the needs of clients.

“Federal and state healthcare laws and regulations change constantly and the interpretation of those laws and regulations changes just as frequently,” notes Smith of The Health Law Firm, which provides legal services for all healthcare providers and professionals.

Fines levied to facilities that fail to be in compliance can be costly. Penalties for medical waste disposal violations, for example, can range anywhere between $5,000 and $70,000 or more for each violation. OSHA penalties can range from about $12,000 for each serious violation to more than $125,000 for each willful or repeated violation, according to the agency.

“More facilities are being cited for lack of appropriate training as mandated by federal and state laws and regulations,” Spurgin says. “The fines associated with non-compliance are expensive and burdensome.”

Gallion notes that regulators are taking a more “consultative approach” when conducting inspections and surveys, allowing businesses to correct any shortcomings before levying stiff penalties. Rather than concern about being fined, he says 99 percent of MedTrainer customers are simply looking to ensure their organizations are in compliance and maintaining a high standard of best practice within their organizations driving ROI on both the operation and patient outcome level.

“Compliance and training is an insurance policy, and I don't mean from the fear side of violations and fines although that can be an outcome. Having a culture of compliance protects employees, patients, billing and your overall business,” he adds.

“I can see a potential fine escalating awareness, but I still don't think that's the primary reason why most people come looking to make sure that they're fulfilling their requirements,” Gallion says. “Our all-in-one solution allows providers to save time, reduce costs and improve efficiency, putting the focus back on patient care while compliance runs effortlessly in the background.”

Smith agrees.

“Ultimately, the purpose and primary benefit of healthcare compliance is to improve patient care,” Smith says. “Patient care is improved when healthcare decisions are based upon appropriate and current clinical standards. Patient care decisions based upon improper motives rarely results in the delivery of quality care.”

Despite the cost of implementing a compliance program, such programs lead to better practices, Gallion agrees.

“With our all-in-one compliance management suite, we can show a direct correlation between proper training and compliance management, and more efficient facility operations and a higher level of patient care,” he says.

“These types of programs generate tremendous ROI in customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction within the work environment, overall best practices for safety and creating a safe work environment . . . ” Gallion says. “When somebody is in a business and investing in their business, they shouldn’t just be doing the bare minimum, which was probably the standard 10 years ago. Today we see people starting to do more, which is encouraging. And I would encourage others to follow that trend.”

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