A policies and procedures manual, sometimes called a clinic manual, is a roadmap. It is one document, or a series of documents, that describe how a safety net dental clinic is managed and how it functions on a daily basis. The manual provides instructions for all the clinic’s functions, including procurement, health records, recruitment and retention of staff, position descriptions, hours of operation, scope of services, evaluation, and more.
Staff members of any health care organization come from diverse educational backgrounds and perspectives. Without guidance from an established set of policies and procedures, each person would develop individual strategies to accomplish job responsibilities, which may be disjointed and might lead to inefficient and possibly ineffective clinic operations. A policies and procedures manual ties all functions together; it is the instruction manual that helps to ensure smooth and efficient operations. It should be used to help orient new staff to their jobs and to update current staff whenever policies or procedures are changed. Summaries of various policies and procedures can be made available to patients to help them understand why the clinic provides services in the manner that it does.
It is not necessary to have all policies and procedures in place when the clinic opens; some can be developed as the clinic operates. There are, however, essential policies and procedures that should be in place when operations begin.
Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare shows how formalized, written policies and procedures fulfill a number of important purposes:
- Facilitate adherence with recognized professional practices.
- Promote compliance with regulations, statutes, and accreditation requirements
- Reduce practice variation.
- Standardize practices across multiple entities within a single a health system.
- Serve as a resource for staff, particularly new personnel.
- Reduce reliance on memory, which, when overtaxed, has been shown to be a major source of human errors or oversights.