If you’re in charge of a medical practice or clinic, do you understand the importance of making sure all employees are comprehensively trained?
It’s possible that you don’t, but the benefits of a well-trained staff including front and back employees can mean big benefits for the entire practice.
Some of the ways thoroughly training employees can benefit a practice include:
- Trained employees are going to be more efficient. Also, if you work to cross-train your staff, you won’t face gaps if an employee is out of work or leaves the practice.
- Medical settings are regulated by standards that include OSHA and HIPAA, so it’s not just advisable for medical offices to invest in employee training and development. Governmental laws and regulations also mandate it.
- Well-trained staff members are going to translate to a better customer service experience, which will help keep patients loyal and can also serve as a way to attract new patients.
We’ve broken down Medical Staff Training into several categories and have included additional resources in each section. You can click the links below to visit any section of this guide.
- 1. HIPAA Training for Medical Offices
- 2. HIPAA Training Best Practices
- 3. OSHA Training and Compliance
- 4. OSHA Requirements and Standards for Medical Offices
- 5. Bloodborne Pathogens
- 6. EHR and Technology Training
- 7. Customer Service Training for a Medical Environment
- 8. Training Healthcare Employees to Provide Excellent Service
- 10. Creating a Training Plan
HIPAA Training for Medical Offices
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, is one of the most important regulatory laws impacting all healthcare settings, including even small medical offices and clinics.
The goal of HIPPA is to protect the privacy of patients and their healthcare information, and also provide guidelines as to how healthcare information is to be processed and maintained.
HIPAA rules are established by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and they not only protect the healthcare information of patients, but also outline patients right, and there are some protections offered to health care providers under the law as well.
It’s essential that all staff members including front and back employees are thoroughly trained on HIPAA, and as the regulations do tend to change and evolve rather quickly, training should be updated periodically.
Many compliance issues are the results of unintentional acts of employees, but a violation can lead to a penalty of up to $50,000 each. A violation can also damage the credibility and reputation of a practice.
Understanding HIPAA Compliance Resources:
- What You Need To Know About HIPAA Compliance
- What Is HIPAA Compliance?
- Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule
- HIPAA Compliance Checklist
HIPAA Training Best Practices
The HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security rule both carry specific training requirements and covered entities and business associates are required to provide training to staff including doctors, nurses, business associates and subcontractors. Essentially, anyone who is in contact with protected health information needs training.
HIPAA training must include not only information on the specifics of the law but also training on specific policies and procedures. There are different options available for the delivery of this training, ranging from an internal expert to outsourced training. Increasingly, medical practices are also using online courses.
When an HIPAA auditor works with your practice, they’re going to be looking for training logs, so it’s important to keep up-to-date records on all staff training.
- Free HIPAA Training Videos
- UNC School of Medicine Downloadable HIPAA Training
- HIPAA Training Courses
OSHA Training and Compliance
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines their mission as being to save lives, prevent injuries and protect American workers. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor, and they describe state plans and guidelines to ensure all U.S. workplaces are safe, including medical and dental offices.
One of the primary OSHA standards impacting medical and dental offices is the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard. Some of the requirements include a written exposure control plan, updated annually, the implementation of universal precautions, safe needles and sharps usage, employee training and proper containment of regulated waste.
General OSHA Standards Resources
OSHA Requirements and Standards for Medical Offices
The most frequently referred standard impacting medical offices is bloodborne pathogens. Also important to consider in training are how various containers including sharps disposal boxes, contaminated laundry, and certain specimens are handled and disposed of.
The hazard communication standard says medical employers must have a written hazard communication program, and this also mandates employee training. Other areas of OSHA regulations that could impact medical office training fall under the category of Ionizing Radiation, which applies to any facility with an x-ray machine.
- OSHA Guide For Medical & Dental Offices
- OSHA For Clinicians
- Healthcare Standards and Enforcement
- Organizational Safety Culture-Linking Patient and Worker Safety
Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms found in human fluid and blood. They can include things like hepatitis and HIV. Sharps and needle-related injuries can expose healthcare employees to bloodborne pathogens, so it’s important to not only know the OSHA regulations covering this area but also to understand your responsibilities as an employer.
Highlights of OSHA training requirements on bloodborne pathogens include the establishment of an exposure control plan that’s updated annually. Universal precautions must be implemented, and employees must be provided with personal protective equipment and trained on its proper usage.
Employers are required to ensure workers receive regular training, and it must be offered on initial assignment and at least on a yearly basis after that. The training is required to be presented in a way that the employee can understand, and the employer is required to maintain a sharps injury log as well as training records.
- Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Prevention
- Quick Reference Guide to the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
- CDC General Resources on Bloodborne Pathogens
OSHA Guidelines for Medical Employers:
- OSHA Employer Responsibilities
- 7 Common Questions Regarding OSHA and HIPAA Training Requirements for Dental and Medical Offices
- OSHA Cracks Down on Healthcare Employers
Training Guidance and Resources for OSHA Compliance
- OSHA Compliance Guidance on Training
- OSHA Training Handbook for Healthcare Facilities
- Staff Training: How To Meet OSHA Requirements
- 2016-2017 OSHA Manual and Training System
EHR and Technology Training
For quite a few years Electronic Health Record (EHR) software training has been essential in healthcare settings, and with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, that became even more relevant.
Many medical practices are moving away from paper-based records keeping and are instead becoming almost entirely reliant on technology and electronic records management. Through this process, employee training can help make for a smoother transition, and also ensure the number of errors is reduced.
Thorough EHR and technology training in a medical setting can also help employees feel more confident and less frustrated, leading to better communication throughout the office, and less staff turnover.
When designing ERH training, or any type of training for new software that will be used in a practice, it’s important to have a plan in place, and to have one or two key staff members who are trained before the rest of the staff, so they can serve as resources and guides throughout training.
It’s important that training is role-based so each employee is learning the functionalities of the software or EHR program most relevant to their job, and along with training on the technicalities of the EHR system, it’s essential that training also includes practical and process-centric elements. This means employees will learn how the software will be used on a daily basis, in realistic scenarios they’re likely to encounter.
Vendors may also be useful resources to help practices set-up EHR employee training.
EHR Training Tips and Guidelines Resources
- Five Best Practices for Training Staff on Using a New EHR
- Conduct Training & Implement an EHR System
- 3 Solutions To Improve EHR Training, Outcomes
- EHR Implementation: Training Pays Dividends
Customer Service Training for a Medical Environment
While many of the above training areas for medical offices and clinical settings have focused on regulations and technical considerations, something that’s also key to the successful operation of a medical office is customer service training. Despite the importance of this area of training, it’s the most often overlooked in most practices and clinics.
A national survey called the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems was launched in 2006, and it was designed to create a comparison system for customer service in hospitals, while also incentivizing hospitals to improve their quality of care and create accountability.
In 2010, the Hospital Value-based Purchase Program was established by the Affordable Care Act, and similarly, it dictates random surveys of patients, with monetary incentives for quality of care.
While these surveys are directed specifically at hospitals, there’s increasing pressure on all healthcare providers and businesses to focus on customer service.
Resources for The Role of Customer Service in Healthcare:
- Recognizing the Importance of Customer Service Skills in Healthcare
- 5 Reasons Why Customer Service Matters in Healthcare
- Importance of Customer Service Skills in Healthcare
- Op-Ed: The Importance of Creating Exceptional Customer Service
Training Healthcare Employees to Provide Excellent Service
There are a few areas to focus on when providing customer service training to medical employees.
The first step should always be outlining a standard of service and what’s expected. Then, training can move on to general concepts of what it is to deliver the best service possible in a healthcare setting.
This can focus on empathy and interpersonal communication, as well as soft skills. This training should also outline how to communicate with patients in a way that’s clear and concise, easily understood and there should be training on how to handle patients who might be scared, confused or generally upset with a situation.
Guides and Resources for Customer Service Training in Healthcare
- Hospitality Meets the Hospital: Training Healthcare Employees on Customer Service
- 7 Ways To Improve Patient Satisfaction, Experience, and Customer Service
- 10 Principles for Outstanding Outpatient Customer Service
- Impact Patient Care and Satisfaction with These 5 Tips
As mentioned at the start of this guide, cross-training employees is incredibly valuable in a medical office setting.
Some of the benefits of cross-training employees include:
- Medical practices won’t have to use temp agencies if someone isn’t available for work for a period of time.
- There is a sense of continuity and consistency in operation when employees are cross-trained.
- When employees are cross-trained there tends to be more documentation and rigid guidelines in how things are done, which can help avoid the likelihood of fines or other issues stemming from violations.
- Employees tend to be more empowered and ready to make decisions and take ownership of their jobs when they’re cross-trained.
What’s important to realize with cross-training employees in a medical office setting is that while it carries many advantages, it does take time, effort and some monetary investment, although the ROI is generally much higher.
Guides to Cross-Training in a Medical Practice
- Cross-Training At Your Medical Practice
- An Examination of the Impact of Cross-Training On Patient Flow and Profitability in a Medical Practice
- Cross-Training: Your Best Defense Against Indispensable Employees
Creating a Training Plan
The above are the main areas of training that need to be addressed in most medical office and clinical settings. Every practice or medical office is going to have unique requirements that will determine the specifics of training, but the above serves as a good starting point.
Once these areas have been reviewed, the practice can start building a customized training plan.
The following are steps to follow to deliver effective, efficient and valuable training to all staff members in a healthcare setting.
1 – Outline Guidelines and Requirements
You can start with general laws and regulatory guidelines that are pertinent to your medical practice, such as the ones listed above. Begin creating training needs and competencies based on these areas, and then move on to the specifics required of employees at your practice. You can divide training guidelines and requirements by position, or segment them based on front and back office staff.
2 – Assess Gaps with Current Staff
To target your training and make sure it’s as effective as possible, assess gaps that might be present in the knowledge or skills of existing staff members. This will show you where to focus your training efforts, and also give you a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of training.
3 – Decide on a Training Delivery Format
You have quite a few options as far as how you’ll deliver training to your medical office employees, ranging from interactive e-Learning to traditional reading materials. You can also have internal employees responsible for leading and supervising guided training, or you might outsource employee training to an expert third-party organization. The most successful approach is often when that combines several different formats, such as videos, seminars, reading and e-Learning.
4 – Measure Knowledge After Training
Once you’ve created and implemented employee training, measure the knowledge of employees. This will help you refine later training efforts, make sure staff are adequately prepared, and you may also want to keep this information on-hand for regulatory and compliance reasons.
5 – Develop Onboarding for New Employees
In addition to training for existing employees to make sure they’re up-to-date on practice procedures and regulatory requirements, you should also develop training for new hires that focuses on these areas, but also helps them understand the cultural and “soft” expectations of employees in the practice.
6 – Reassess As-Needed
Your training should be viewed as something that’s always changing and evolving, as the standards in the medical industry are frequently doing the same. Reassess your training materials for relevance and accuracy, and also make sure employees are re-trained on a regular basis.
Resources for Creating an Employee Training Plan