Is healthcare compliance on life support?

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Rob Warmack
Rob Warmack

Assisted living, long-term care and nursing homes — the senior living industry —is one of the most challenging and compliance-driven industries in the U.S. With baby boomers seeking facilities for their older relatives, or for themselves, senior living companies are facing a huge and growing demand for services. By 2030, 72.1 million people will be age 65 or older and many of them in need of senior services. Three issues are chiefly adding to the complex management of the industry:

Healthcare workforce woes

While the market for senior services is growing, the workforce is in constant flux. Many of the positions are low-skilled, low-paying and/or poorly trained; as a result, turnover is high, an average 42% every year, but many organizations suffer much higher rates. And the work itself can put caregivers at risk of injuries, in turn putting the organization at risk for lawsuits, legal costs, fines, rising liability insurance rates and additional turnover.

Compliance programs can't be outsourced

Because profit margins may be low, depending on the type of care provided and the percentage of private vs. publicly funded residents in a facility, key services are often contracted to third party vendors in order to reduce employer overhead and turnover. That may make financial sense, but it doesn't protect the company from compliance obligations required of those services, such as payroll and IT. Audits are still the responsibility of the senior living company, not the third party vendor.

Staying secure online

Speaking of IT, technology security training can often go by the wayside in a busy senior living center, and yet without it, the company faces distinct threats: privacy issues, malware and data breaches the most common and severe. In reality, some threats may happen no matter how much training is done. However, in an environment that is heavily regulated, and where medication management and health records are stored electronically, making sure employees are trained on the use of systems and software is not just smart, it's necessary.

One of the challenges in training is that the industry's diverse workforce and knowledge of secure computer practices will be all over the board. Some employees may not even have computer skills and will require basic training. Others may be computer savvy, but not aware of the problems of downloading suspect files or sharing protected information. It's important at all levels to systematically train for compliance.

Breathing easier with a compliance management system

Grappling with the tough issues facing the senior living industry can seem overwhelming. However, there is one effective strategy for mitigating problems in workforce, key services and technology issues. An automated compliance management system centralizes compliance activities, reducing business risks, and providing tracking systems and documentation for external and internal auditing, and safeguarding systems against threats.

Rob Warmack is the vice president of marketing development at Compli.

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