Forrest General Takes World-Class Compliance to the Next Level

In this day and age, protecting patients is of utmost importance. Whether it's for safety or the security of their protected health information, failing to look out for their well-being will certainly lead to distrust, higher rates of infections or other hospital-derived illnesses and possible litigation.

 In fact, many healthcare organizations have realized possible threats to patient information may exist in the supply chain, and, as a result, health systems have reached out to their vendor compliance solution provider to help inject greater accountability and consistency into their risk management programs.

Forrest General Hospital is one such facility. Hosting 512 beds, the hospital is essentially the mothership of Forrest Health, a system that provides care in a 19-county area in central and south Mississippi and is based in Hattiesburg, Miss.. The organization prides itself on providing world-class, personalized care through a wide range of top-notch programs including heart and vascular services, critical care access, women and children's services and a dedicated cancer center and orthopedic hospital, to name a few. Forrest General's commitment to caring is portrayed in the phrase, "We C.A.R.E. — every employee, every patient, every time."  

The hospital system needed a consistent method of monitoring access and protecting its patients and staff — as well as comply with a Mississippi law that requires all those who have access to treatment, procedure or patient recovery rooms to undergo a background check, submit their fingerprints and be screened for drugs. In order to implement this requirement, Forrest General knew it would need to take its vendor credentialing program to a whole new level. And to ensure that it was able to continue its consistently high levels of excellence, the health system engagedDet Norske Veritas Healthcare as its accreditation partner.

Compliance becomes a priority
DNV is the only accrediting body for U.S. hospitals to combine the Medicare Conditions of Participation and the ISO 9001 Quality Management System into a unified accreditation program. Hospital surveys are conducted annually to increase collaboration and promote continual improvement across departments, compared with every three years for The Joint Commission. And since ISO 9001 standards directly address purchasing processes related to tangible products as well as services, Forrest General knew that working with DNV would help ensure its supply chain activities worked smoothly and efficiently.

To achieve compliance requirements, Forrest General needed to maintain strict control over hundreds of their business partners. Among the requirements, the hospital had to prove that purchased products/services conform to very high standards; that they are continually evaluating, selecting and re-evaluating suppliers based on established criteria; and that they are maintaining records on how they conduct vendor evaluation and selection.

Forrest General has implemented a variety of internal policies to ensure DNV compliance. For one, all third-party individuals that conduct business with the health system must first register with the organization. By having the vendor information, Forrest General can authenticate the company information upfront, which supports a controlled purchasing and vendor management process. Using a software package from its vendor compliance partner, the hospital can easily maintain registration records, including acknowledgments from each company representative that they understand hospital policies. With this information the hospital can then easily print out badges when third-party employees visit Forrest Health facilities. The badges not only provide valuable ID information but also reflect which locations in the hospital a vendor is allowed to visit.

The solution also provides a platform to help maintain vendor rules that address nearly every contingency they may come across with their business partner. The rules include information about whether the company is high, medium or low risk. They also cover the types of behaviors by which vendors must conduct themselves, including issues related to patient privacy and access to certain areas of the hospital, such as procedure rooms.

Forrest General continually screens and continuously monitors business partners for non-compliance with the policies, which were created not solely by supply chain personnel but with help from the compliance department, legal advisors, surgical services, risk and quality managers and even the marketing team.

A consolidated effort
Forrest General reports that its vendor credentialing and evaluation program is proving successful. The program is supported by the centralization of the organization's purchasing activities, which has naturally fallen into the purview of materials management leaders at the anchor hospital. The move helped the organization standardize products across the entire system, one of the reasons Forrest General continues to achieve and maintain compliance. The consolidation also creates a hub for processing all contract approvals within their contracting management solution. This not only improves efficiency in the supply chain but also lowers costs across the board.

Many facilities will attempt to implement their own vendor compliance program, including developing software around vendor credentialing. However, they often find it difficult because of the resources required to get the program up and running. In fact, they will employ full-time workers who are solely dedicated to maintaining all the vendor documentation, which proves to be more costly in the long run, a prospect that Forrest General simply does not want to entertain.

Forrest General's credentialing efforts not only help the organization develop and maintain very comprehensive vendor compliance policies but also provide a level of accountability, ensuring the organization follows all state laws and maintains high ethical standards. With its credentialing solution, Forrest General has been able to achieve consistency across all departments, which has helped their scores rise in patient satisfaction, safety and quality.

Looking to the future
Forrest General's credentialing program has just been expanded to require all business partners to supply a W-9 form along with the rest of their documents. The information, including an OIG check, was previously obtained by their accounts payable department, which monitors all financial information that pertains to the vendor. Now the vendor credentialing system collects the information and turns it over to the AP department. The organization anticipates this will make their compliance programs more thorough and help streamline payment processes, a win-win for Forrest General and its patients.

Doris Vaughn is director of materials management at Forrest General, where she is responsible for all aspects of the Materials Management Department.

Mike Paris is vice president of eCommerce and supply chain solutions for Vendormate, which helps providers and vendors meet the regulatory and compliance requirements that form the foundation of strategic partnerships.

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