The governing body for a residential care home might be a large Board of Management or a small group of directors or private owners. Whatever the structure and size, your governing body is probably feeling the same as all the others right now: overworked, overstressed and overwhelmed.
To help you cope, ACE is launching a series of “how to” articles for residential aged care governing bodies. Today, in Part 1, we look at how to manage one of the top-rated challenges facing governing bodies: staying up to date with legal changes, best practice information, guidelines and advice.
Governance: Residential Aged Care Providers’ Main Challenges/Concerns
Our recent Aged Care Impact Report published the results of a survey of residential aged care managers top challenges/concerns about governance.
As you can see, slightly more than half of aged care managers ranked writing and maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures as their top concern. Identifying/accessing up-to-date best practice information and guidelines was ranked lower but was still recognised as a significant challenge.
In a subsequent article we’ll discuss what’s involved in writing a new policy or procedure from scratch. This article will focus on how to keep your governing body up to date so that they can maintain accurate policies and procedures.
Tips and Resources for Keeping your Governing Body Up to Date
Don’t do the research yourself: get help
Time spent trawling through multiple webpages in search of the latest updates is time you could be spending on your core purpose of caring for consumers. Subscribe to regular alerts such as these and let others do that work for you:
- ACE Weekly Wrap
- Aged Care Law Monitor
- Department of Health: news and announcements for the Aged Care Sector
- Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Newsletter
To stay up to date with the rapidly-changing COVID-19 regulations and advice, see CompliSpace’s free COVID-19 Regulatory Changes page.
Plan to update your policies and procedures regularly and endlessly
Here’s the bad news: your policies and procedures will never be finished. One day soon the law will change and your policies will become non-compliant, then you will update them, then the law will change again and you will update again, then the law will change again…
The good news is that this cycle can be managed if you have a plan and a system. There are different ways to establish an effective policy management system. These include:
- Using an in-house team to regularly check for changes in law and best practice and make updates
- Periodically engaging an external service to review and update policies and procedures
- Engaging an external service on an ongoing basis to ensure policies and procedures remain up to date
If engaging an external service be sure to consider:
- Does this service provide ongoing updates? (some services provide only a suite of policies to get you started and then leave you to sort out the updates yourself).
- Will this service monitor the law for changes and inform me when they need to be made, or will they only look for changes when I ask them to?
- How often will they conduct reviews and updates and how much will each one cost?
Date your documents
To stay up to date, you have to know the currency of the documents you’re looking at. This sounds trite, but in practice it’s easily overlooked. Make sure your reports, updates and other documents are clearly marked with the date they were created and the date they were last updated.
It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of beginning your meetings by checking the dates on your documents. This is a quick, easy way to identify if your organisation has a problem staying up to date. It may also prompt useful discussions about how to better maintain currency of information.
Control your versions with a shared system
It’s not enough to ensure that you’re looking at the latest version of a document – you have to make sure that the rest of your organisation is looking at that version too. This is one of those things that is almost impossible to do with a paper-based system and super easy to do online. An online system gives you a single source of truth that multiple staff can access simultaneously. It also gives you greater control and transparency regarding updates: you can limit the power to change the document to just a few staff and you can track every change they make.
Use easy to read, contextualised “user-friendly” reports
One of the best ways to keep your governing body up to date is to provide them with regular reports that set out key changes in laws, regulations, advice and best practice. You can outsource this task (see Aged Care Law Monitor below) or compile your own report based on information gathered from your email alerts and research.
If you compile your own reports, you’ll have to decide how much detail to include. In its report on Board Governance in the Aged Care Sector, the Australian Institute of Company Directors advises that information in board reports should be pitched at an easy to read “middle ground”: not so high-level that “it fails to provide meaningful information” nor “so detailed that it is difficult to interpret the key themes.”
This is a tricky balance to strike. The key is to provide substantial detail but in a way that is marked with prominent “flags” that tell the reader which legal and regulatory changes are the most recent and the most important. This way, the governing body is not overwhelmed by detail and can see the most critical information at a glance, but they also have access to further information if they need it.
For examples of how this works, see the “traffic light” system used in:
Standardise the format of your reports
Once you’ve established a user-friendly format that you’re happy with, make sure you use that format for all of your reports. This way, the governing body and staff will be more familiar with how the reports work, and this will make it easier for them to locate and input information. It also makes it easier for you to conduct comparative analysis between reports.
The standardised format of your reports should be agreed the governing body and management.
Ensure that the latest information is incorporated into policies and procedures and communicated to staff
Finally, it’s worth noting that even a well-informed and up-to-date governing body is not much use unless they use their knowledge to improve the way the organisation delivers care to consumers.
This is referred to as the cycle of continuous improvement: the governing body uses its knowledge to update policies and procedures, staff execute those policies and procedures and monitor and report back to the governing body on the results and the cycle begins again.
This is a big job that cannot be managed ad hoc, so, again, it’s essential to have clear lines of communicate and a centralised policy management system in place.
Other Helpful Resources
Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission: Accountabilities of governing bodies in aged care - webinar
Australian Institute of Company Directors: Board governance in the aged care sector