Four Tips for Efficient Healthcare Regulatory Research
If you are a healthcare compliance officer (or wearing that hat), you know that time can be your enemy when researching regulatory issues in light of competing demands. If you are not careful in your approach, you can easily find yourself in a position where five hours have passed, you are seven steps removed from where you began, and you are more confused than ever. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. In this article I will provide some time-saving techniques that I use to efficiently conduct regulatory research.
Tip One: Get All The Facts. When I am confronting any regulatory question, I am comparing a set of facts to a set of words in a regulation. To that end, I am asking myself: Is “this? (e.g., my set of facts), a “that” (e.g., what the regulation permits or prohibits). A great starting place for me is to be certain I have all the facts and history surrounding the issue. To help me, I will ask my operational expert closest to the issue: who, what, where, when, why, and how? In asking those basic questions, I will have him or her explain the situation like they are telling someone with no healthcare or operational experience. Often times the expert is so close to the issue, he or she will assume I have the same level of knowledge, which can lead to misinterpretation. As a result, unnecessary time can be spent clearing up the misunderstandings. To that end, having the expert take a step or two back in explaining the situation saves me time in the end.
Tip Two: Develop A Research Plan. After I have gathered the facts and history, rather than diving right in and researching the regulation, I develop a research plan to outline my approach to finding the answer. Every research plan will vary depending on time and available resources, but for me, they include the same essential components: an issue statement, a list of potential search terms and questions to address, and an outline of the resources I plan to consult. What I have found is that spending a little time upfront saves me time on the backend by reducing the chances of searching endlessly in circles.
Tip Three: Summarize The Issue. Through the process of developing a research plan, I also summarize the issue with an issue statement to identify the question(s) that need to be answered. A good succinct approach to writing issue statements is following the “under, when, does” model found on Legalwriting.net. Under this approach, your issue statement asks the question: “Under (this regulation)…when(these facts happen), does (this outcome result)?” I have found that by writing out the issue statement it helps limit the scope of my research which saves me time.
Tip Four: Know When to Say When. When I started my compliance career, determining when to stop researching often times was not an easy decision. Experience eventually made me instinctive, but the first few issues resulted in an uneasy feeling about when to stop. Some factors I consider include: my deadline, the level of risk to the organization, and patterns in information. Typically a good rule of thumb I follow is when I have looked at several independent resources and they all convey the same information, then I know it is time to stop.
With so many healthcare regulations out there, researching a regulatory issue can be frustrating and very time consuming. I have found through experience that the above tips provide a consistent blueprint to follow. In the end, this helps me stay on point and save time in the end.
References: Legalwriting.net,Issue Statements: under-when-does.