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Some customers come with their own special circumstances and nuances. Contractors must acknowledge and work with these if they intend to make the relationship long-lasting. With the intimate nature of the healthcare industry, you can do well to set some rules for yourself to create a lasting and successful client relationship.
Some rules may sound like simple common sense, but not remembering and abiding by them can mean the difference between successfully finishing the project or being asked to leave. The main thing to keep in mind is that hospital regulations and the rules for hospital employees also apply to contractors. Though that may not be a blanket statement regarding every single policy, approaching the contract in that way will help avoid big surprises.
Parking is an issue at facilities such as hospitals. Work vehicles need to be parked and left only in areas that have been predesignated as usable spaces. Abiding by “no parking” and “emergency parking only” signage is extremely important. Having one’s work vehicle towed is not a good way to be remembered as a contractor.
Tools and equipment used on a job should be your own. In addition, contractors must ensure all tools are stored only where designated. This is a safety issue, since hospitals have patients who could be a danger to themselves or others. It is important to secure potentially dangerous equipment, keeping these items out of sight.
Electricity is a critical and crucial factor in any hospital. Prior to even thinking about taking down electricity for any work, schedules need to be discussed with all appropriate staff members at the location to ensure everyone at the facility understands the contractor’s schedule. Since having power in many hospital areas is a life or death issue, it is imperative that the facility management understands when power will, or could potentially be, cut off or even somewhat disrupted.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) pertains to private patient information and applies to contractors in just about the same way as it does to internal hospital employees. Since contractors working in a facility are bound by the same ethical standards as the regular employees, they need to be aware of the impact HIPAA has on them. This means they are not to discuss patient information, as that is a direct violation of patient privacy. It would be a HIPAA violation if contractors and workers leave the site and discuss the private medical concerns of patients they may have observed. If a worker sees someone they know in a facility, they should not go home and discuss the person and their condition with others. It’s that simple.
Since HIPAA covers essentially all patient information (medical, financial, personal, contact, etc.), contractors working in and around communications systems also must be aware that what they potentially see and hear should not be discussed beyond what they need to say in order to get the work done.
HIPAA is constantly changing, so those working in healthcare facilities must be mindful of it and refer to the act often. Being aware of any changes or updates to this mandate is important, as falling out of compliance can happen, and if it does, it could be a costly occurrence.
Data security is another key area of concern for hospitals, as compliance constraints are becoming increasingly stringent. Contractors who may be working in and around data storage areas need to be aware of the compliance and availability issues of the facility. Contractors must communicate with staff members about any anticipated or scheduled power outages that may affect the availability of data. This also is true for contractors working with the data lines, as those, too, could potentially affect data availability.
Keep in mind that customers in the healthcare field need to be treated with extra care. Keeping an open line of communication between the contracting company and the customer can help keep things in check. Simply ask questions. Contractors should be as proactive as possible, and doing so will help ensure they are operating within the expectations and mandates of the facility.
STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at [email protected].