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New Healthcare Standards Now Under Development Will Include HR Issues

At a time when healthcare costs, administration and quality are national priorities, the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), under the designation of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), has begun a process of developing formal standards for healthcare administration that potentially will “define and improve the operational workflows or business processes and metrics of healthcare entities in the United States, including healthcare process,” according to Lee S. Webster, Secretary for ISO Technical Committee 304 for Healthcare Administration.  
UTMB is seeking the active participation of healthcare and other professionals throughout the U.S. who are eager to contribute to a collaborative process to create standards that healthcare organizations across the world can utilize to continually improve service, efficiency and outcomes. While the scope of this initiative is far broader, it will include human resource management issues and even potentially employee and patient engagement issues. 

The Goal: Better Outcomes for All 

“We decided to pursue this initiative because experience and research reveals that better managed healthcare entities operate at a lower cost, provide more opportunities for consumer access, have greater patient satisfaction scores and finally have lower morbidity rates among patients,” explains Webster. “One of the pillars for improving healthcare operations is enhancing workforce management in these organizations. Employee engagement is a subject of high interest in healthcare. So we see a partnership between Technical Committee (TC) 260 and TC 304 in the development of mutually supporting human resource management standards.” 
Note: The Enterprise Engagement Alliance’s proposal for the creation of employee engagement standards was accepted by U.S. TAG and is now being pursued at the international level in cooperation with Great Britain and other countries.
Webster notes that the UTMB has established forums through ANSI and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) at which “sincere experts” with credible interest in improving the management of healthcare can meet, develop and ultimately publish standardized practices and metrics for the affective administration of healthcare services. These forums or committees will regularly meet, virtually and in person, to craft standards that will improve human resources, information technology, supply chain management, finance and other non-clinical operations in healthcare settings. “So interested parties may participate in either or both the domestic or the international standards setting efforts,” says Webster. “We plan to start the committees for both in January 2017.” 

Benefits to Society and Participants

Webster and UTMB see major benefits coming from standards. Some examples:
  • Establishing healthcare administrative standards will slow, if not reduce, the cost of providing healthcare through the widespread adoption of interoperable metrics, workflows and practices.  
  • Reducing the cost of healthcare will make these services more affordable and thereby provide an opportunity for greater access to society.
  • Improving the administrative, managerial and human performance of healthcare entities results in better healthcare outcomes for patients and better experiences for employees.
  • Although numerous standards exist for the laboratory protocols, clinical services and patient care functions of healthcare organizations, there are scant standards that address administrative workflows that are specific to healthcare entities.  
  • Standardizing healthcare administrative metrics will create apples-to-apples comparisons of organizational performance that will better educate consumers and drive process improvement activities.  
  • Rural communities and developing countries will have access to effective practices that offer a roadmap to improve the quality of healthcare services they receive.  
  • Standards will complement standards developing efforts of existing American National and ISO standards developing committees.
Webster says he is pleased with the positive support UTMB has been received from other standards developers and members of the healthcare technical community. “The healthcare community and its stakeholders are highly receptive to standardization and certification and will adopt approaches from these sources readily,” he notes. 

The Standards Development Process

To tackle such enormous issues in a systematic way, Webster says the process will be broken into two main committees with subcommittees:
1. American National Standards Development Consensus Body (Committee). This committee will develop standards that will principally be adopted and used within the United States. Participants will contribute to improving domestic U.S. healthcare business operations. This committee will likely support several subcommittees organized around specific projects or subject areas for standardization. For example, one subcommittee may focus on standards to improve patient admissions and discharges, while another focuses on nurse staffing concerns. Says Webster: “We are grateful that the overall committee will be chaired by Dr. Tom Boat, the former Dean of the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. We are planning for the kickoff teleconference of this consensus body in early January 2017.”
2. U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO TC 304 – Healthcare Administration. Webster explains that this committee of U.S. national experts is empowered to represent the interests of the United States at ISO meetings and other global standardization events concerning healthcare administration. Working in parallel with the U.S. national standards development committee, this group will develop and assess healthcare standards projects that are global in scope. The U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meets quarterly, both virtually and in-person. Its members will also comprise the U.S. delegation, participating in several global working groups and representing American interests at the annual ISO plenary meeting. The kickoff U.S. TAG meeting will be a virtual meeting, occurring in mid-January 2017. The first ISO TC 304 plenary meeting will be in-person and will occur in Galveston, TX on Friday, February 17, 2017.
There are currently 30 countries involved in the international standards effort. To learn more about which countries are involved, click here

Who Can Contribute and Benefit

Although this standardization initiative will most directly serve healthcare providers in the U.S. and globally, other organizations may have an interest in participating, says Webster, noting that the following organizations may benefit from participation:
  • Healthcare Providers: Those involved in Human Resources, Finance, Supply Chain, Transportation and any other non-clinical business function for their healthcare organizations.
  • Corporations/Companies: These could include companies that believe they have effective practices that could benefit healthcare management. Moreover, if they provide healthcare benefits to their employees, they would have an interest in helping lead an effort to reduce the cost to operate healthcare entities.
  • Nonprofits, Law firms and Consulting firms: This could include any firm that supports or provides products and services to help healthcare providers manage themselves more effectively
  • Academia and Government: Scholars and those involved in regulating the operations of healthcare entities are also welcome.

Roles for Participants 

Webster says interested and qualified parties are invited to participate in the development of these American National and International standards, noting that they can also provide ideas to the committee about standards projects they think would be valuable and necessary in healthcare. Such participants could function in the following roles:
  • Voting Members. Full member of the domestic or international standards development effort. They will attend virtual and some in-person meetings and participate in working groups that develop the standards and finally vote on ballots about the standards as they come due.
  • Non-Voting (Observer) Member. They will have the same role as above, except they will not have the authority to vote on any measures before their respective committees.
Fees: Webster notes that there is an administrative fee for organizations to join any of the standards development efforts which is allocated strictly to support administrative expenses.

How to Get Involved 

UTMB will host a series of teleconferences about this standards effort so that those interested may ask direct questions of the UTMB staff. The dates are listed below. Please RSVP by Nov. 21 to Lee Webster at or call 703-867-0721. Domestic Standards Conference Call Dates and Times (phone numbers and links will be provided on or about Nov. 21)
Dates Times
November 28 8:00 am – 10:00 am (Central)
November 29 12 noon – 2:00 pm (Central)
November  30 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm (Central)
December 1 8:00 am – 10:00 am (Central)
December  2 12 noon – 2:00 pm (Central)
December  2 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm (Central)
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