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FreePint BlogGetting control of policies and procedures at Edwards County Hospital

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Although intranets have been around for many years, plenty of organisations have not yet maximised their usage... or even implemented one, despite their potential to improve internal communications, adherence to policy and workflow. A county hospital in Kansas took a process-oriented approach to develop a much-needed intranet, overcoming internal technical and cultural challenges along the way.


When Bob Krickbaum joined Edwards County Hospital as CEO he knew he had plenty of challenges ahead of him, but he might not have suspected that the departure of two directors of nursing would turn a problem with internal communications and policy and procedure management into a near crisis.

“Policies and procedures weren’t where we thought they were. With the staff members gone there was no one to ask,” says Thyra Strate, RN-C and quality director and risk manager. There is, perhaps, no place on earth where rules and regulations are more important than in a hospital. But even before the policies went missing, they were inconsistent and there was no way to ensure staff was familiar with them.

On the very simplest level, the hospital wanted its policies to be more uniform, and professional in appearance. It goes without saying that a hospital’s policies need to be clear and that every employee needs to be familiar with the regulations that affect them. From the janitors to the surgeons, the hospital was struggling with how to manage this important part of the hospital’s workflow.

As it turned out, the solution to Edwards County Hospital’s problem was just around the corner, so to speak. The small hospital is part of the Pioneer Health Network, a collaborative network made up of rural hospitals across western Kansas, and it wasn’t the only network partner facing similar organizational challenges. Jason Friesen, the network’s director of operations, was casting around for solutions, and consulting colleagues at hospitals similar in size to the ones in the Pioneer Health Network and that was when appeared on his radar.

The hospital began developing a Governance Board. There was a 2-3 hour install, and two full days of on-site training in October, plus another three days of on-site implementation in November. ECH developed a small computer lab for training, but the team turned to an environmental services staff member in her 70s when it came to developing a training plan. If their least tech-savvy employee could follow the training and become proficient in using the new intranet, they figured it would be smooth sailing for the rest of the staff.

The portal, now known as The Exchange, went live on December 15, 2011. The hospital’s policies and procedures are now being managed far more effectively. Now the policies are consistent, and when one is updated, all the employees that are affected receive emails. After the employees have read the updated regulations each one has to acknowledge that he or she has read the policy. These days, Strate says, she no longer hears employees saying, “I didn’t know.” Each individual is held accountable for staying up to date of departmental regulations.

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Figure 1: Home page of The Exchange

This has a way of “a way of creating a culture of compliance,” says Regan Sonnabend, director of sales at The system even reminds staff when the policies are due to be reviewed and updated. 

This is a short version of a FreePint Subscription article on the same topic. If you have a FreePint Subscription, you can view the full article now (login required). The full article explains the steps the hospital took, key challenges and how managers overcame them, and results of the project to date.


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