Wednesday, April 27, 2016

OSHA & CDC Issue Zika Virus Guidance for Healthcare Workers

 Healthcare Compliance Solutions Inc.
To combat the spread of the Zika virus through occupational exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued interim guidelines to protect healthcare workers.
Current evidence suggests that 1 in 5 people with the Zika virus infection develop symptoms. If present, mild symptoms begin 2 to 7 days after receiving a mosquito bite, and can include fever, rash, joint pain, red or pink eyes, myalgia, and headache; typically, symptoms can last for 1 week. During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be spread from an infected person to a mosquito via a mosquito bite. Additional transmission may occur through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected individual.

“Employers and workers in healthcare settings and laboratories should follow good infection control and biosafety practices as appropriate, to prevent or minimize the risk of transmission of infectious agents,” the guidelines stated.

Employers and employees should meet OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen (BBP) standard, and laboratories should ensure that their facilities and practices meet the appropriate Biosafety Level (BSL) for the work being conducted.

“[The] CDC recommends healthcare workers use standard precautions during patient care regardless of suspected or confirmed Zika infection status,” according to the report.

The following are some additional suggestions for protecting healthcare employees from Zika virus:

● Wash with soap and water, using alcohol-based hand rubs of at least 60% alcohol content.

● Wash hands before and after contact with patients or potentially infectious material.

● Wash hands before and after putting on or removing personal protective equipment (PPE).

● Do not bend, recap, or removed contaminated needles or sharps.

● Properly disposed of contaminated needles or sharps in closable, leak-proof, puncture-resistant, labeled or color-coded containers.

● Use sharps only with sharps engineered injury protection (SESIP) to avoid sharps-related injuries.

● Report all needlesticks, lacerations, and exposures to supervisors as soon as possible.

If an employee becomes infected, the CDC recommends that infected individuals rest, drink fluids, and take acetaminophen for fever and pain reduction. Infected persons should avoid further mosquito bites by covering skin and using an insect repellent containing DEET.

Employers should ensure that workers receive prompt and appropriate medical care for suspected Zika infection. If the exposure falls under OSHA’s BBP standard, employers must comply with OSHA medical evaluation and follow-up requirements. Also employers should consider options for granting sick leave during the active period of infection.

Further information regarding the guidance can be found here.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Don’t Let Rude Staff Ruin Your Patients’ Experience

"Too many healthcare workers learn their customer service skills from the "University of the Abrupt" that offers a major in brusque with a minor in terse”

Something is seriously wrong when a patient is made to feel like a recruit in military basic training being shouted at by a drill sergeant, writes George Korda, a Knoxville News Sentinel columnist. That was his feeling after an encounter during a recent doctor’s visit with the office receptionist who yelled out his name despite the fact he was the only person in the waiting room.
Korda recalled his first visit at another doctor’s office where he was greeted with a command from the young woman behind the desk. “Last name,” she said, without a smile or a please.
“Healthcare workers have a tough job, and a good many work at being kind as well as professional. Nevertheless, some don’t,” he writes. “Courtesy and respect in the process, though costing nothing, are a significant investment in the bank of good will.”
Physicians who want to see good patient satisfaction scores need to ensure that they and their staff don’t treat patients rudely, Korda says. Here are some tips on creating a better experience for patients in your practice:
        Recognize and celebrate team members who provide especially compassionate care
        Hire compassionate employees and provide empathy training to current staff
        Give doctors in the practice feedback from their patients on a quarterly basis to help them improve their bedside manner

Prioritize the needs of employees by offering mindfulness training programs, expressive therapy and weekly wellness conferences.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Afraid of Improving Your Employees

Are you afraid of improving your employees skills out of fear that they might leave?

The above question is one that has been pondered by many organizations. Some organizations have minimized training all together in order to keep their employees skill sets limited and thus minimizing their potential to leave for greener pastures. While other organizations have maximized training and the development of their employees while understanding the risks.

This is a discussion that needs to be had within every organization. What is the correct answer? There are four key points that will help any organization formulate the answer for their own situation.

Not All Employees Are the Same

When an employee is hired, nobody knows that employees true potential. When additional responsibilities are given to that employee, an organization is able to begin to see what the employee can offer. When an employee develops new skills through training and professional development, an employer is able to observe the true character and potential of that employee. When some employees are given new skills, they rise to the challenge and embrace the exciting change. These employees are looking to utilize their new found skills. While other employees who are given new skills do nothing with them and go right back to where they were before the new skills were learned. Giving employees new skills is an opportunity for an organization to identify employees with potential and possible future leaders. Not all employees will react to receiving new skills the same way. In regards to their potential, each employee is an individual and should be treated as such.

Resources or Cogs?

Every organization has a different mindset when it comes to their employees. Neither mindset is good or bad. Each mindset is derived from the business goals of the organization.
  • Resource - Your employees are the greatest resource within the organization. Identifying, guiding, and developing employees with great potential and placing those employees into the areas of the organization where they can have the biggest impact. This is a process that takes time and some serious investment from the organization. As a resource to the organization, employees are developed and given new skills. Once those new skills are fully utilized, then that employee becomes more valuable to the organization.
  • Cog - Your employees have been hired to do a job and it is expect that they will do that job well. Minimal amount of training or investment will be made by the organization as the employee only needs to know what is required for their particular job. Each employee is a cog working within a larger machine. If that cog is no longer effective and productive, then it will be quickly replaced by a new cog. All cogs are replaceable and are expected to burnout after a given amount of time.
Some people may object to employees being treated as a cog in a machine while others may object to investing too much into an expendable resource. As stated earlier, neither mindset is good or bad, but rather how a particular business operates.

Employee Value

Jack has just completed a week long training course. He is excited to begin implementing what he has learned into his job. There is a lack of enthusiasm from his supervisor about Jack's newly acquired skills. Nevertheless, Jack begins utilizing his newly learned skills and sees an increase in his productivity. Jack's confidence grows as he becomes a bigger contributor to the organization. However, as time passes, nothing changes with his job, responsibilities and perceived value. His supervisor did not appear to value the additional training Jack received nor the increased value of Jack himself. By this point, Jack has begun to feel frustrated and under valued. He got hired at a different company where Jack feels they value his skills, talents, and true value. After receiving Jack's two-week-notice, Jack's supervisor says to him, "I don't understand what happened. I thought everything was going as it always has." Jack then turned and said to his supervisor, "if that is what you think, then you don't know me."

When an employee receives training that adds to their professional skill set, they perceive that they become more valuable to the organization. If the organization sees that the added skill set did indeed make the employee more valuable, then that perceived value has become a reality and must be recognized. Recognition could come in many forms, including, but not limited to, increased responsibility of a leadership nature, monetary bonus, raise in salary, or a promotion. If the employee perceives their increased value, but the organization does not, then that employee-employer relationship will sour quickly and the employee will look for value validation elsewhere.

Succession Plan

What are your organizations future plans for leadership roles? Will those roles be filled with new employees outside of the organization or will those future roles be filled by developing talent within the organization? If an organization plans on filling future leadership roles with in-house talent, then giving employees new skills and knowledge is a critical component. As stated earlier, when you give employees new skills and knowledge through training and professional development, the true character and potential of that employee begins to surface. Once those potential future leaders are identified, then they must be valued and placed on a track of continued development. An organization's in-house talent will already have an understanding of your organization's culture and will be an example to other employees. There is a risk to developing in-house talent as some of that talent the organization has invested in will leave for another opportunity elsewhere. Should an organization only develop in-house talent? No, this tends to create group think and does not lead to new ideas or a fresh approach. It is important to fill some of the leadership roles with outside talent.


Deciding weather to give employees professional development and add to their skill set is a business decision that needs to be made by every organization. This decision should be based on the organizations' business goals and expected outcomes. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Take a moment to think about this and ask yourself, "am I afraid of improving my employees?"

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Being Clear on Healthcare Social Media Policies

 Healthcare Compliance Solutions INC.
Define Your Social Media Policies Now To Reduce Future Issues

Love it or hate it, social media is a fact of life. It can be a great means for medical practices to raise awareness, educate, and engage patients.
However, it's also easy to find stories about social media gone wrong in healthcare. Many of these involve HIPAA violations by staff who don't understand the inherent lack of privacy in social media posts. ProPublica, an investigative news organization, recently reported on more than 30 incidents where staff inappropriately shared images and other patient information over social media networks.

In light of the horror stories, there is a temptation for practices to construct a "defensive" policy focused solely on restricting staff use of social media; essentially "What you don't say can't hurt us." Instead, you should seek a balance that not only protects patient privacy and discourages public relations gaffes, but also allows those who know your practice best — its staff — to show pride in their work and promote it. Designing a good social media policy for your practice can tip that balance to the positive.

Here are some ways to help you get there:

1. Keep it simple. Staff will view a policy that is too long and tries to cover everything negatively — if it's read at all. Further, because social media is constantly evolving, too much specificity will virtually guarantee your policy will quickly become obsolete.

2. Be clear about your goals. To provide context for your social media policy, put the focus on what you are trying to accomplish. These goals may be things such as maintaining patient confidentiality, compliance with applicable laws and regulations, protecting the practice from negative outcomes, enhancing the practice's professional image, and ensuring a productive and focused workplace.

3. Don't reinvent the wheel. There are many easily adaptable, great policies available online. You can find many examples here and can even view policies by professional sector, including healthcare of course.

4. Get beyond the "thou shalt not." See the positive as well as the negative. Don't be so afraid of the worst-case disaster that you stop staff from telling your practice's story. The average adult Facebook user has about 300 friends, meaning that even in a small practice you could easily reach thousands of people with a positive message. Imagine someone saying, "I'd love to tell my Facebook friends about the money we raised at the local charity event, but our social media policy won't allow us to post on work-related topics."

5. Don't just dictate, educate. Beyond the policy itself, staff may need help in thinking through how this all works "in real life." Again, there already are some great resources to give you a running start on this. One example is "A Nurse's Guide to the Use of Social Media." You can offer real examples and scenarios that help your staff understand the repercussions on using social media to represent your practice.
6. Listen and respond to feedback. This allows you to not only hear concerns staff may have, but also get a sense whether they understand your social media policy. Initial staff reaction to a social media policy may not be warm and fuzzy. Most staff will easily understand rules on using practice equipment and network connections for personal use during the workday. However, you may get pushback on "restrictions" outside of work time. Point out that HIPAA violations hurt patients — and they can have negative legal consequences for not only the practice, but also the individual staff member. Be upfront and explain that your policy covers both staff social media activity at work and off the clock. Respond to any concerns by communicating the practice's expectations of staff professionalism, both on and off the clock.

7. Back it up. Enforcement and sanctions may be unpleasant, but they are an absolute necessity. Having a policy but not enforcing it may be worse than no policy at all, since this sends staff the message that you're not serious. It also can create liability for the practice if you have a policy in place and make no effort to ensure that it is followed. Your medical practice's sanctions for policy violations — especially those involving HIPAA — should be documented and consistently applied to all staff.

If you are successful, your social media policy and staff education efforts will offer bright-line guidance prohibiting illegal or unethical activity, while also encouraging staff to share their successes at your practice. That is a win-win for patients, the practice, and staff.

Source(s): Stephen McCallister,

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Friday, April 1, 2016

An Effective Termination Procedure Will Protect Your Organization

Help protect your  office from potential liability by having a written termination procedure as part of your office policies and procedures.

Two facts of employment: people get hired and people get fired (or resign).

Few supervisors and managers savor the idea of being good at firing people. Nevertheless, you need to know how to terminate employees in a way that preserves their dignity while meeting your organization's needs. Even the most experienced managers will experience stress and anxiety when they go through the termination process. Having a clear idea of the process won’t make it any more pleasant, but could prevent you from making costly mistakes.

The key to a "successful termination" begins with hiring and continues throughout the employer/employee relationship. Performance Reviews also play a critical role in a "successful termination". But the actual process of termination is what stays in everyone’s mind the longest time. Remember that a termination impacts everyone.

Outline of the Termination Process
  • An employee’s manager or direct supervisor should call and conduct the termination meeting. Hold the meeting in a private location other than the employee’s normal work area to limit any embarrassment the employee may experience. Information to be covered in the meeting follows.
  • Notify the employee how and why he or she is no longer working at the company. Tell the truth, such as facts about an employee’s poor performance, regardless of how uncomfortable it is. However, never make remarks about an employee’s personal character.
  • Inform the employee that the decision is final and when the termination will be effective. (For example, immediately as is common with termination for poor performance or at sometime in the future as is common with a layoff due to reduction in workforce.)
  • Let the employee know what benefits (unemployment, health insurance, severance pay, etc.) are available. State laws typically govern how and when final pay and vacation pay is handled.
  • Give the employee a written termination notice. Send a written termination notice—by certified mail—to an employee that is being terminated because he or she has failed to come to work as required.
  • If you are concerned that an employee may become violent or take legal action, you might consider preparing a statement explaining the termination and read it verbatim to the employee.
  • Consider offering assistance to the employee for finding another job. You might offer company assistance in preparing and mailing resumes, making copies or job search coaching tips.
Following the termination meeting, document it with a written, detailed description of the meeting. Include what the employee was told and what the employee said in the notes.

How to Fire an Employee Checklist
  • Decide exactly, and succinctly, why you want to fire the employee.
  • Compare your reasons for wanting to fire the employee with the job descriptions for that employee’s position. Does at least one of your reasons include that the employee is actually not doing the job properly?
  • If you have specific procedures for termination of an employee, follow those procedures.
  • If the employee is working pursuant to a contract, you must comply with the terms of the contract having to do with termination; otherwise you may be in breach of contract.
  • Be sure to tell employees why they are being fired and give them these reasons in writing. (This can be mailed to them later if more convenient.)
  • After you tell employees why they are being fired, allow them to tell you any defenses or other responses they have to your reasons for termination. IT just may be that you are making a terrible mistake, or the employee may confirm your decision to fire them
  • Make sure employees’ files include a copy of the written reasons you gave the employees for their firing. Also, make a note in the file of any comments or defenses employees made in response to being fired.
  • Be sure all wages, benefits, property, or other things belonging to the employee, or to which the employee is entitled, are given to the employee.
  • At all stages of the termination process, from deciding to do so until the employee files is closed for good, treat the employee with common respect and courtesy.
  • Never, ever do anything to humiliate the employee. Simply being fired is humiliation enough for an employee.
  • Firing an employee is not a pleasant thing. However, being sure of your decision, following proper procedures, and keeping objective records of the decision and the event can put you in the best position possible in case the employee later makes accusations against you, or even if they sue you.
Final Mental Checklist:

  • Plan what you are going to say
  • Be calm
  • Be humane
  • Avoid surprises
  • Have a strong paper trail
  • Write a letter of termination to the employee
  • Change the employee’s computer password and eliminate all of their IT access (don't forget email group lists)
  • During the termination meeting, make notes of what was said and exchanged
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