Policies and Procedures Pave the Path You know how you want your practice to run. Spelling it out for your employees ensures that they do, too. In Private Practice
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In Private Practice  |   June 01, 2014
Policies and Procedures Pave the Path
Author Notes
  • Eileen M. Devaney, MS, CCC-SLP, a past president of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology, has been in private practice since 1983. She is director of S.E.E.D.S. of the Willistons (Speech, Education, Evaluation & Developmental Services) in Williston Park, N.Y. eileendevaney@seedsofthewillistons.com
    Eileen M. Devaney, MS, CCC-SLP, a past president of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology, has been in private practice since 1983. She is director of S.E.E.D.S. of the Willistons (Speech, Education, Evaluation & Developmental Services) in Williston Park, N.Y. eileendevaney@seedsofthewillistons.com×
  • Susan Newton, MS, CCC-SLP, director of Long Island Stuttering and Speech Pathology in Northport, N.Y., also contributed to this article.
    Susan Newton, MS, CCC-SLP, director of Long Island Stuttering and Speech Pathology in Northport, N.Y., also contributed to this article.×
Article Information
Practice Management / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   June 01, 2014
Policies and Procedures Pave the Path
The ASHA Leader, June 2014, Vol. 19, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.19062014.30
The ASHA Leader, June 2014, Vol. 19, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.19062014.30

What should a clinician do if a young client needs to use the bathroom in the middle of a treatment session?

What should a receptionist say to a new client who calls to make an appointment for an evaluation, but doesn’t have insurance information at hand?

Both of these situations have at least two possible appropriate responses. The clinician, for example, could escort the child to the restroom—or ask the child’s parent to come in from the waiting room to help. The receptionist could schedule an appointment and get insurance data later—or ask the new client to call back with the appropriate information.
Standardizing answers to these and other questions means establishing policies and procedures—integral to any small business—and documenting how employees should act in any given situation.
You may think you don’t need a policy and procedures manual until something out-of-the-ordinary happens, such as an accident on the premises or a complaint about a bill—but you don’t want to wait until an incident happens to compile a manual. By that time, it’s too late to start writing one. You have worked hard to build a private practice, so protect it by anticipating unusual or difficult circumstances in advance and establishing standard responses to them.
What’s the difference?
Your manual will have two different types of entries. A “policy” is a definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency and facility. It stipulates how your employees should appropriately respond to clients. It is impossible for you to answer every question that comes up within your practice, and the policies you establish allow others to be your voice. As in the opening scenarios, for example, your policy might state that your practice does not book appointments without complete information—including insurance—on the prospective client.
A “procedure” outlines a specific way to act or conduct a particular course. As a business owner, I have very clear ideas of how I want my business to run. However, I can’t perform every task myself; therefore, a policy and procedures manual allows me to defer the responsibilities and have the results competently carried out. Again, the procedure related to the scheduling policy may be for the receptionist to suggest that the client find the information and call back, or for the receptionist to “hold” the slot, releasing it if the client does not provide the information within a certain amount of time.
Break it down
Although writing a policy and procedures manual is crucial, it may seem daunting and overwhelming. As with any big project, break it down into smaller steps to make it more manageable. A good approach is to reflect on your mission statement, the guidelines you already have in place, and the everyday work flow in your practice.
Keep in mind that some policies are actual federal and state regulations, such as those related to discrimination, patient information privacy and workplace safeguards. However, other policies are more personal. Once you’ve noted your mission statement and the appropriate regulations, you are on your way to developing policies and procedures that will help everyone in your practice fulfill your business vision.
Start small. When I first wrote my policies, they were to help the administrative assistants who answer the telephone at the front desk. I require some basic information prior to seeing clients. For example, one particular insurance company requires that we get an authorization number to perform the evaluation; another insurance company requires a doctor’s prescription following the initial evaluation and before treatment begins. Each insurance carrier has its own situations and requirements for authorizations. With these policies and procedures written down in one place, it is easier to orient new employees to office procedures and even to hire the occasional temporary worker if necessary.
Remember that other policies and procedures can pertain to mundane occurrences, such as the child who needs to use the restroom. A more critical procedure, however, would be what to do if the fire alarms go off. You don’t want to be strategizing as the alarm is sounding.
Components
Most policy and procedures manuals contain four main components:
  • All the documents you use daily, such as intake forms and confidentiality forms.

  • General office procedures, such as documenting an accident or reporting child abuse. It would include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

  • Forms for hiring personnel and other human resource needs, as well as forms for student observers.

  • Copies of the contracts that you have with employees and with other agencies, such as school districts or nursing homes.

A policy and procedures manual is a guide to ensure that your business runs smoothly. The manual is a living document that will change, depending on your needs, health insurance regulations, contracts, and federal and state regulations. New issues have a way of exhibiting themselves at different times, and you need to be ready to revise and edit at any time.
The creation of your policy and procedures manual may not be the easiest part of running your business. It will, however, make your business easier to run during any situation and, most important, allows you to grow your business with confidence while keeping your values intact.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
June 2014
Volume 19, Issue 6