We’re Great at Creating Policies and Procedures, but Awful At Removing Them

Ever since I heard Tony Scott, the US CIO, talk about his goal of taking stuff off the federal books, I’ve been chewing on that concept. There’s little doubt that the federal government is really great at creating laws and regulations, but they’re really poor at getting rid of old laws and regulations. It’s hard to blame them. I don’t really know anyone that enjoys what amounts to “spring cleaning.” Needless to say, the US government could certainly be part of an episode (or even multiple seasons) of Hoarders the way they keep laws and regulations sitting around gathering dust.

While it’s easy to slam the government for their hoarding tendencies, I don’t think healthcare is immune to this problem either. Sometimes we’re required to “hoard” patient medical records by law. That’s not a bad thing since it’s good to comply with the law. However, it is a bad thing when we no longer are required to retain the data and the data in this old data has limited value.

In fact, much of that old outdated data could pose a risk to patients. We all know that many of our first IT systems were implemented quickly and therefore resulted in poorly collected data. Keeping around incorrect data can lead to disastrous consequences. It might be time for some spring cleaning (yes, it can be done in Winter too).

What’s more troublesome than this is many of the policies and procedures that exist in most hospital systems. Much like the government these policies and procedures get put in place, but we rarely go back and take them off the books. My least favorite thing to hear in a hospital when I ask why they do something a certain way is “We’ve always done it this way.”

If we don’t know why we’re doing something, that’s the perfect opportunity to ask the question and figure out the answer. Many times there is a good answer and a good reason for the policy and procedure. However, more often than most people realize, we’re just doing something because we’ve always done it that way and not because it’s the best way to do something.

I love Tony Scott’s effort to purge things from the books that are outdated, useless, or even harmful. Every hospital organization I’ve seen could benefit from this approach as well. Their organization would benefit, their employees would benefit, and ultimately patients would benefit as well.

When was the last time you got rid of a policy or procedure?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.