Why Hospital Boards Need a Board Portal

Nicholas J Price

Board directors of private and nonprofit hospitals have many challenges to discuss and resolve. Hospitals have not been exempt from the impact of a fluctuating economy in recent years. Staying in compliance with regulations and laws is a major concern for hospital boards. Hospitals have been impacted by changes to Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and the Affordable Care Act, making billing and collecting medical and hospital expenses extremely complex. Technology has created many helpful advancements in healthcare and healthcare administration. At the same time, technology has created some new problems, including cybersecurity issues.

Board portals help boards to manage many of the daily, short-term and long-term issues that they face with efficiency and increased security. Board trustees who use board portals save much time in performing routine tasks, which allows them more time to focus on the matters of greatest importance.

Today's Hospitals Face Many Risks and Challenges

Board directors must perform the routine tasks of every board, such as reviewing financial reports, approving meeting minutes, recruiting new board directors, strategic planning, and oversight of the hospital and all of its operations. In addition to managing these tasks, they also have to deal with many new and emerging issues.

Hospital costs for staff, equipment and supplies are rising, making healthcare unaffordable for many people who need it, which encourages overuse of the emergency department. New medical providers are bringing on competition for hospitals. Boards need to strategize about ways to reduce operating costs and how best to use technology for healthcare.

Hospital boards must also contend with many financial issues, such as collecting payments from government agencies, insurance companies and patients. They must also deal with hard issues like insurance fraud and managing bad debts. Cash flow can be a big problem for hospitals as they seek adequate funding for capital improvements.

The cost of regulation is increasing for hospitals as they comply with audits and the expectations of accrediting institutions. Board directors must be aware of applicable federal, state and local laws. As part of their strategic planning, boards must also assess liability issues like reducing errors in patient care and medication errors.

Hospital board trustees have responsibilities toward their employees, patients, investors, donors, the community and other stakeholders.

With so many issues facing hospital board directors, board portals have become a necessity for every type and size hospital. Board directors need to devote as much time as possible to these issues. Board portals are an efficient and cost-effective tool to help them maximize their productivity.

Paper Board Handbooks Are Insecure, Unwieldy and Outdated

Board portals have drastically improved the functioning of boards. Technology is making it possible to add features to enhance board operations even further.

Board portals still give board chairs and secretaries much work to do in preparing for board meetings and fulfilling other responsibilities; however, board portals streamline those duties. Board secretaries alleviate the need for massive effort in printing, collating and binding materials in preparation for meetings. The manual process is costly and time-consuming. More importantly, board directors risk losing or misplacing bundles of papers, threatening the confidentiality of their work. Information that gets into the wrong hands may adversely affect the hospital's reputation. Using a board portal also makes an important contribution to living in a green society because it saves paper and energy.

Board portals for hospitals help board directors to perform their responsibilities safely and efficiently.

Benefits of Board Portals for Hospital Boards

Board portals effectively assist board directors with issues of governance, compliance, planning, cybersecurity, communication and more. In fact, there isn't much that a board portal can't do now or won't be able to do in the near future.

With automatic notifications, storage for legal documents, and being able to provide documents for auditing purposes, board portals manage most of the governance duties for hospital boards. Board members have the ability to have one-on-one or group chats within the portal safely and securely.

A hospital board portal saves the board chair and the board secretary many hours of searching for documents. The board portal neatly stores and categorizes meeting minutes, agendas, committee reports, committee charters, bylaws, analyst reports and anything else the board wants to have easy access to. Some board portals also have a feature that manages multiple rounds of director approvals.

Board members can easily post white papers, legislative updates, pertinent news articles and other newsworthy items that they want to share with fellow board trustees.

Many hospitals are required to perform annual board evaluations. Board portals make it possible to complete this task completely online so that it doesn't take away from board meeting time. The portal lets the secretary send out the evaluation forms and receive them back. It also allows the secretary to share individual director results anonymously. Of course, the portal conveniently stores evaluations for future review.

Security is a major concern for hospital boards. Board portals are typically highly secure in order to protect sensitive board information. They have strong anti-virus and email programs. The portal also allows for security from within the board. The portal administrator can restrict permissions for certain areas of the portal that board members don't need to access.

The portal can be set up so that there are separate sections with restricted access for board committees and the executive committee.

One of the features that many board members enjoy the most is the ability to access the board portal remotely from any location, and on any electronic device. This helps board members to attend to board business when they find nuggets of time.

With all of the useful features that a board portal offers, is there a downside to using one? Some people might say that they are difficult to learn how to use. There may be a little truth to that statement for people who are not comfortable using technology in general. Board portal companies want their customers to use all of the features of the portal, so they offer many opportunities to help board members learn how to use the portal, including webinars, videos and one-on-one personal training.

Most users agree that the learning curve is a small inconvenience for what the board gains in time, cost-savings and general efficiency.

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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.