So, you’re trying to prepare your EMS agency for an audit. Depending on the type of audit, it can evoke some worry.
Audits come in many varieties, but any time an authority assesses your EMS agency, you will likely have some concerns or fears. It all depends on who the auditing authority is and how well you (and your team) have been following the required processes and best practices. So, what are those best practices, and how can you prepare for a successful EMS audit?
Planning for an EMS Agency Audit
In emergency services, there are many rules and regulators that oversee your agency. Because of the fraud, diversion, and other concerns that can happen in any medical field, reporting isn’t just important—it’s mandatory.
Whether you’re reporting to your state agencies, national agencies like HHS and CMS, or reporting medication dispensing to the DOJ and DEA, it’s always crucial to keep up with your records and reporting practices. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) shares what regulatory areas they’re focusing on each year, but other regulatory agencies don’t. Nevertheless, you know if your EMS agency is prepared for any type of audit or if there’s something you should shore up.
When we think of an audit, we often think of insurance auditing, billing, and financial reporting (yes, EMS agencies can even be subject to IRS audits). But there are other audits as well, including HIPAA (patient privacy), OSHA (employee safety), and many more.
With all these potential auditors, it shouldn’t surprise you to discover that your agency will undergo a compliance check at some point. However, as long as you’ve done your due diligence and are confident in your team’s training and follow-through, there’s no reason to fear the word “audit.” Instead, you can view it as just another part of the day-to-day job.
If your agency receives notice that an audit is pending, it will usually arrive as a written request. Some agencies may simply request additional information on a specific case, incident, or report. Other times, you may receive notice of a more in-depth audit, where the agency wants to review your compliance reports going back several months or years.
When and if you receive notice of an audit, don’t panic. Take the time to review the request carefully, reach out to any signees on the request, and ask questions. Often, the very words audit, compliance, or violation can be alarming, but it’s essential to cooperate and do your best to understand exactly what the regulatory agency is requesting.
Fortunately, you can take plenty of steps right now to ensure that when the notice of an audit arrives, you’re ready and have all the needed documentation and records. If you’re constantly reviewing your processes and working on compliance, then an audit is nothing to fear. In fact, an EMS audit is an opportunity to show the regulators that you are on top of accountability, giving your organization strong credibility.
Creating a Compliance Plan for Your EMS Agency
Every agency should have a compliance plan, so it’s typically not a matter of creating a plan from scratch. Instead, the job is usually breaking out the plan, assessing, and making sure you and your team are practicing the plan regularly.
Back in 2003, the Office of the Inspector General published a Federal Register guide for EMS and Ambulance Agency Compliance. Although much has changed since that time, there are still plenty of best practices in the Federal Register that still apply. For example, designating a staff member to act as your “compliance officer” and providing regular internal monitoring and reviews of reporting.
The Register also underscored the importance of addressing misconduct and enforcing standards with transparency and clear communication throughout your team. If you don’t have clear standards and compliance practices in place, or if they’re languishing somewhere on a shelf in your back office, break them out for a review and update.
Getting Your Team on Board
When you tighten up compliance to ensure you’re prepared for a potential EMS agency audit, you have to have buy-in from your team. Whether it’s requesting that they take additional measures to protect patient privacy or unrolling new software to help them track and monitor controlled substances, your team needs to understand how and why.
How often have we seen seemingly arbitrary guidelines roll out from an agency, only to have them largely ignored and overlooked by the team? It’s usually due to a lack of buy-in or a feeling that “management” is sending down the orders from on high rather than working with boots on the ground to develop best practices.
Clearly communicate with your team regularly. When they bring up something that isn’t working—for example, struggling to keep track of paper records—listen and work on a solution that works for everyone. Avoid the mentality of, “This is just what needs to be done,” or “We’ve always done it this way.”
Instead, listen to your team’s experience and talk to them about new ways to strengthen your procedures and documentation. If you (hopefully) have a compliance officer appointed within your team, listening to their concerns and guidance is crucial. They might often notice risky areas first—where you’re opening your team up to safety concerns, where diversion could potentially occur, times when you’re short-staffed, and other issues that can lead to bigger problems.
Staying Up on the Latest Information
How well does your agency stay atop the latest in terms of news and technology? Many people across the medical, veterinary, and related fields are surprised to learn of new rules and regulations. Sometimes these guidelines have been in place for quite a while before agencies comply.
Any medical field, including EMS, is busy. It’s hard to stay current on the latest advances, news, local and federal regulations, AND new technology. When you’re serving critical patients and responding to emergencies, there’s often barely time to breathe, let alone brush up on publications and industry news.
But scheduling time to regularly explore the latest in the industry will keep you from unwittingly getting your EMS agency into trouble or failing an EMS agency audit. Your compliance officer, team leaders, and management must stay current—especially in a field where things can change very quickly.
One easy way is to sign up for industry publications and review the compliance-controlling agencies’ websites and newsletters regularly. Then, schedule at least a weekly check to ensure you stay ahead of the game.
Use Tools Like LogRx to Keep Yourself Compliant
Failing to track controlled substances properly can cause your organization to not only fail an EMS agency audit but also face legal consequences, fines, and damage to your reputation. For smaller agencies, the effects can cost you your entire business.
Luckily, there’s a tool that makes tracking-controlled substances easy for all agencies, no matter the size. LogRx offers a simple, user-friendly solution to help you comply with DEA requirements and efficiently inventory, track, and report.
LogRx helps stop drug diversion by ensuring that administrators have constant access to quantities, dispensing records, and more—know exactly what your team used, where, and how much is left with the click of a button.
Because LogRx works directly from your team’s handheld devices—tablets or phones—there’s no need for specialized equipment, scanners, or other technology updates. Our software allows you to scan tracking stickers from vials and bottles and record them on the go. LogRx even works in the field for search-and-rescue, wildlife professionals, and air transport. Track dispensing in real-time, and upload when you return in range. It’s that easy!
If you’re worried about facing an audit, LogRx allows administration to easily run reports and view real-time tracking from the dashboard in the LogRx Admin Portal. You’ll see inventory counts, expiration dates, and an array of report options to make reporting and compliance simple and efficient. LogRx supports your team, increases accuracy, and cuts administrative time—almost like having another person on staff!
If you’re looking for a simple, affordable solution for EMS controlled substance tracking, LogRx is the answer. Designed by EMS professionals, LogRx will help you stay compliant and connected without headaches and hassle.
If you want to learn how LogRx can serve your team in EMS, wildlife support, veterinary medicine, and related fields, reach out today. We’ll help you protect your agency, team, and patients!