As an urgent care owner or operator, you make your best effort to hire the right people for the right position. You count on their experience and provide training to ensure they follow the right steps to make sure your patients get excellent care and that visits are properly documented and billed.

But what happens when a situation arises for which your practice manager is less experienced? Are you always available to answer questions? Can you be confident that staff are consistently performing in ways you want your business to operate? Where can your staff go to find definitive answers to questions about process and protocol? The answer lies in your policy and procedure (P&P) manual.

Without a good map, even the most traveled practitioner or support staff can go off course. Every urgent care should have an accessible—and comprehensive—P&P manual to guide the ship. And just as important, managers must know, understand, and share it to make it effective.

The following are nine big reasons why a solid P&P manual is important for every urgent care.

  1. Contracting and Credentialing – Without a P&P manual, it may be difficult to get your urgent care up and running. Many insurance companies require it before offering contracts or awarding credentials. Payers often focus on policies your urgent care has in place to assure quality and a long-term commitment to maintaining providers’ credentials.
  2. Accreditation – A solid P&P manual will help you establish your expertise on your way to accreditation. A policy and procedure manual is required for UCAOA Accreditation and Certification. Other licensing and regulatory bodies also require a solid P&P manual. While there are numerous resources available to create your manual, remember that your policies and procedures will be a living document; growing and evolving as your business, staff, and industry change.
  3. Training and Staff Development – Your P&P manual sets the tone for new employees and should be available during onboarding. It will help guide staff by outlining expectations, establishing consistent methods for certain procedures, and developing the culture of your center. Encourage new staff to review and ask questions. Not only will it help them perform better, but it will allow you to pinpoint unclear guidelines and make necessary changes.
  4. Communicate Expectations – It’s easy to assume staff understands your expectation, which can lead to misunderstandings. Use your policy and procedure manual to set a high bar and spell out performance standards.
  5. Establish Rules – Every organization runs more smoothly when the rules are clearly defined. When it comes to the medical field, rule breaking can result in unfortunate results, especially when it comes to patient privacy and federal regulations. Including rules—and the consequences for breaking them—in your P&P manual protects your clinic from HR and regulatory headaches.
  6. Maintain Consistency – Consistency is key to ensuring patients get in and out of your clinic quickly and efficiently. When everyone follows protocols established in your P&P manual, you’ll experience a streamlined workflow and happier patients. With a comprehensive P&P manual handy, it’s less likely staff will make costly mistakes because they’re relying on their memory—and this is good for everyone and your bottom line.
  7. Outline Culture – Your culture will attract (or detract) the right talent to your clinic—and retain them. The language, tone, and content of your P&P manual defines who you are and the way you conduct business. It also shows that you are organized and clearly care about providing your employees direction, rather than leaving guidance to interpretation or worse, a myriad of emails or meeting minutes.
  8. Compliance – Be sure everyone knows and understands regulations by including step-by-step processes for dealing with the red tape that comes with federal standards, e.g. HIPAA, OSHA, BBP ECP, CLIA, EMTALA, CMS Conditions of Participation, DNV/Joint Commission. Because rules, regulations, and the law are constantly changing, it’s important to keep your manual up-to-date.
  9. Growth and Success – A solid P&P manual is a road map for employees to contribute to your overall growth and success. With a go-to resource that answers questions and provides protocols, you can ensure everyone is working together to create an environment for success, and the best urgent care available for your patients. A well-thought and maintained P&P manual is also a hallmark of an organized and growing business. Documenting your policies, even if you start out with just a few, shows that you have an eye for the future of your urgent care.

Your P&P manual is essential to smooth operations. Be sure to include guidelines to promote compliance with federal regulations, policies outlining specific patient-care practices, and clinical practice guidelines for specific medical situations.

The following are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Create a table of contents for easy reference.
  • Define terminology.
  • Base guidelines on typical care and best practices.
  • Name the staff member responsible for specific actions.
  • Make allowances for clinical judgment calls where appropriate.
  • Note revisions and dates of updates.
  • Keep electronic copies of older versions (HIPAA, OSHA, BBP ECP).

Your urgent care policy and procedure manual is the roadmap that will be used every day to guide your clinic to success. Be sure you provide the clear direction to keep them moving toward your desired destination.

Want help writing your urgent cares’ signature P&P manual? DocuTAP Consulting Services can provide templates—or help established practices develop (or edit) current manuals that need a refresh.

This resource was first published prior to the 2019 merger between DocuTAP and Practice Velocity. The content reflects our legacy brands.