In the ever-evolving landscape of behavioral health services, ensuring compliance with regulations and standards is vital.  The two most notable organizations,  The Joint Commission, and CARF continue to refine expectations for health and safety when evaluating healthcare facilities, including behavioral health programs.  Historically, organizations relied on expert staff with a clinical background to oversee the day-to-day management of compliance, however, life Post-COVID has seen increasing challenges in workforce shortages, making it difficult for organizations to have the necessary resources to maintain compliance expectations. This blog post explores the current workforce shortage and its impact on the field of behavioral health, and how behavioral health compliance consulting can be the solution to these gaps in resources.

The Evolution of Compliance Consulting in the Behavioral Health Industry

Compliance management has become more relevant in the field of behavioral health over the last three decades. Now more than ever, post-COVID, efforts are being made to move from being reactive - focusing on correcting deficiencies after they were identified - to today where a greater emphasis is placed on being proactive, adopting strategies, tools, and resources that can support comprehensive assessment, planning, and ongoing monitoring. This shift has promoted C-level leaders to seek outside counsel or subject matter experts, i.e., consultants to help guide them toward a responsive compliance culture.

Post-COVID Impact on Behavioral Health Workforce

The pandemic took a toll on the mental well-being of behavioral health professionals, including those responsible for staying on top of health and safety regulations that allowed organizations to keep their doors open.  The workforce experienced long hours, increased caseloads, exposure to traumatic stories, and personal health concerns, all of which contributed to heightened levels of burnout, stress, and compassion fatigue (Shaukat et al., 2020; Vindegaard & Benros, 2020).

Subsequently, these factors led to decreased job satisfaction, compromised quality of care, and attrition within the workforce.   Today, this current workforce has left gaping holes in key positions within behavioral health organizations, including compliance management. Now more than ever, the use of behavioral health consultant experts has been fundamental to organizations in mapping the day-to-day operations of compliance.

Who Typically Manages Compliance?

Some organizations lack the financial means to support a full-time compliance officer. Often the efforts of compliance are adopted by other existing positions including clinical leadership, operations, and event administrative support staff.  While this model has shown some success in ensuring client safety and well-being throughout the treatment process, these positions often wear multiple hats and find that dedicated time to chart auditing, policy and procedure updates, incident reporting and follow-up can be left as last-minute tasks before the next site visit. Current efforts to respond to workforce burnout while implementing comprehensive compliance programs have resulted in many organizations choosing to utilize behavioral health compliance consultants to function as their compliance team. These partners work in tandem with key staff to mitigate risks and address potential hazards.  This includes proactive measures such as staff training, policy development, incident reporting systems, and continuous quality improvement initiatives. With the guidance of consultants, organizations can foster a culture of safety and provide clients with the best possible care.

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The Impact of Technological Advancements

In addition to fostering a partnership with a behavioral health compliance consultant, the advent of technology has proven to be an innovative answer to managing the compliance process.  The use of electronic health records (EHRs), data analytics, and software solutions have revolutionized the way compliance is managed.  Utilizing the Simplifyance software in addition to consultation services leverages opportunities to streamline documentation, monitor compliance metrics, track outcomes, and identify areas for improvement. Appropriate use of technology not only enhances efficiency but also allows for better data-driven decision-making and improved client outcomes.

Building a Culture of Value-Based Compliance™

Our Simplifyance consultation services work closely with healthcare providers, administrators, and staff members to create a culture of compliance within organizations. Through staff education and training, consultants empower employees to take an active role in ensuring compliance, fostering a sense of ownership and accountability. This collaborative approach not only strengthens compliance efforts but also builds a culture of value-based compliance that ultimately enhances the overall quality of care delivered to clients.

Value-Based Compliance™: An Innovative Solution to a Classic Problem
Parker J. Smith, CEO