healthcare regulatory complianceHealthcare regulatory compliance is a difficult and frustrating space to manage.

According to the American Hospital Association (AHA) report “Regulatory Overload: Assessing the Regulatory Burden on Health Systems, Hospitals, and Post-Acute Care Providers,” hospitals and hospital systems must meet 341 healthcare compliance requirements as of March 2017. The number of healthcare regulations balloons to 629 if a hospital also has beds focused on post-acute care — that’s an additional 288 compliance requirements.

While federal agencies have put these regulations in place to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and providers alike, they also have a very real cost for healthcare providers.

The Financial Cost of Healthcare Regulatory Compliance

As the AHA outlines in the report, the healthcare industry spends about $39 billion annually on the administrative facets of regulatory compliance.

For the average-sized community hospital with 161 beds, that amounts to about $7.6 million in administrative costs per year. And for similar hospitals that also include post-acute care, that figure rises to about $9 million annually.

When additional resources are factored into total spend, such as IT investments, the total cost of healthcare regulatory compliance for the average-sized hospital is about $47,000 per bed, or $1,200 per patient.

As a talent or compliance manager, this isn’t shocking. You’re probably already well aware of the pain healthcare compliance can cause you and your team on the floor, but you might not have the same hands-on experience with costs.

For instance, did you know the main driver of healthcare regulatory compliance costs is people? In fact, AHA’s recent findings conclude that more than 80 percent of the cost associated with healthcare compliance can be attributed to staff salaries.

Since regulatory compliance is spread across a number of different domains — such as quality reporting, value-based reimbursement models, meaningful use, and conditions of participation, just to name a few — hospitals end up hiring the equivalent of 58 full-time employees to ensure requirements are met. Add another 8.1 FTEs to that total if the hospital also provides post-acute care.

We have a situation where the healthcare compliance apparatus has become so complex and cumbersome, it’s left some hospitals and healthcare providers feeling as if the only way to stay on top of it is by hiring individuals entirely dedicated to compliance.

Conversely, others have found a way around this in the form of digital courseware and learning management solutions that can be customized to the organization and, more importantly, the individual workforce’s needs.

The Quality Cost of Healthcare Regulatory Compliance

Putting aside the monetary costs of healthcare regulatory compliance, there’s a different – arguably more important – cost that healthcare organizations can’t afford to overlook.

That, of course, is the cost healthcare regulatory compliance has on the quality-of-care an organization provides.

On its face, this assertion seems counterintuitive. After all, compliance requirements are put in place to protect patients and, therefore, should help hospitals provide better quality care. However, hospitals and hospital systems expend a tremendous amount of resources on FTEs to ensure healthcare compliance requirements are being met. Of the 58 FTEs hospitals leverage for compliance, more than one-quarter of them are physicians, nurses, and allied health staff who already work at the hospital.

This means that, on a given day, 15 physicians, nurses, and/or allied health staff are being pulled away from patient-care responsibilities to work on compliance administrative tasks instead. And this only accounts for the dedicated staff that must manage these compliance requirements.

Another aspect to consider is the staff each of these FTEs must manage for healthcare compliance. Each time a physician, nurse, or allied health professional needs to retake a compliance exam or learn about new requirements that is also time taken away from patient-care responsibilities.

Each time a hospital employee is taken off the floor for any reason, for compliance requirements or otherwise, that is time spent away from their patient-care responsibilities. These responsibilities must then be taken on by others on the floor, potentially overloading your workforce or leading to more overtime (and possible overwork).

Although well-intentioned, healthcare compliance, can actually have the opposite of its intended effect on the quality of care a hospital provides. However, given the important role these regulations play in keeping healthcare workers and patients safe, it’s hard to imagine a situation where these regulations would be lifted as a means of lessening the burden healthcare compliance imposes on healthcare organizations.

Rather, hospitals and hospital systems have begun coping with healthcare regulatory compliance by investing in online, self-serve compliance solutions that can be customized to their specific organization, and are streamlined to take up the least amount of time and resources possible.

Alleviating the Burden of Healthcare Regulatory Compliance

Healthcare regulatory compliance is complex, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to decrease the burden for your hospital or healthcare organization.

Both the financial and quality-of-care costs associated with compliance can be solved for by using the Minute Mandatories® feature of the HealthcareSource eLearning LibrarySM Premium Compliance Course Collection. As a feature exclusive to HealthcareSource, Minute Mandatories® are a powerful tool that help already compliant healthcare workers maintain their compliance and accreditations through streamlined courses designed around real-world time constraints.

As any experienced talent or healthcare manager knows, many individuals on staff need to maintain compliance rather than be trained and brought up-to-date on regulatory requirements. With Minute Mandatories®, healthcare organizations get 55 compliance courses that have been optimized to be completed in as little as six minutes for each course. By leveraging this efficiency, hospitals and healthcare organizations can confidently maintain compliance with The Joint Commission, OSHA, HIPAA, CMS, and other regulatory agencies and laws while minimizing the time away from patient-care responsibilities due to compliance training.

Want to learn more about how eLearning can help you support your healthcare regulatory compliance needs? Download our whitepaper, today.

About Salvatore Trifilio

Salvatore Trifilio is a content marketer and former journalist who has written extensively on talent management and technology. Recently, Sal has focused almost exclusively on topics around recruitment marketing, talent acquisition, and employer branding for a wide range of industries and verticals. When he isn’t hammering away at his keyboard, Sal enjoys brewing beer and watching baseball.