There’s an old joke that an auditor is an accountant without a sense of humor.
All kidding aside, auditors can be a tough crowd to please, and having to return funds or pay a penalty is no laughing matter. Fortunately, an electronic recordkeeping system can make the entire process much smoother and less stressful.
While features vary from one system to another, here are a few of the ways an electronic system like SETWorks can make your next audit easier:
An electronic system serves as a centralized repository for all your forms, authorizations, case notes, and other documentation. This makes preparing for an audit much easier.
Instead of having to dig through various filing cabinets, Google Drive folders, and files on your desktop, you only have to go into one system to gather the necessary documentation.
If you already have a good file organization system in place, this won’t take long. All you have to do is double-check that everything has been filed in the correct location. (This is one of the reasons we recommend organizing your files and folders around your audit requirements.)
Having everything digitally means you can easily search your files to find what you need. For example, you can go to the individual’s profile, click on the Consents folder, and pull up their most recent consent form. This comes in handy if you need to quickly locate an additional file during the audit.
Many disability service agencies use multiple different systems for forms, notes, time tracking, and billing, which increases the potential for errors. No matter how careful you are, it’s easy to make a mistake while keying or switching between different tools.
At best, this can cause your team a lot of unnecessary work and frustration tracking down the correct information in preparation for an audit. At worst, it can lead to noncompliance and open your organization up to having to return funds.
Having a single platform for the entire agency reduces the potential for errors at all stages of your workflow, from authorizations to billing. Additionally, some electronic systems include automated error checking to ensure staff documentation and billing submissions are complete and correct.
The initial interaction an auditor has with you will form the basis of their opinion of your organization. This is true for both in-person and remote audits. First impressions set the tone for the rest of the audit, so it’s important to get it right the first time.
Having an electronic system in place with orderly documentation and up-to-date records will help you put your best foot forward. Immediately, auditors can see that you are doing a good job of managing your records.
The more organized you are, the less time it will take to audit your organization — and the less likely they will find a deficiency in your recordkeeping. Even if they do, they may be more lenient since you can show you have strong internal controls in place to prevent errors or fraud.
Depending on the type of audit, your recordkeeping system itself may even be part of the review. During a CARF audit, for instance, the auditors aren’t just looking at your documentation. They want to look at your overall services, including the type of forms you might fill out, the type of files you keep, and how organized you are. An electronic recordkeeping system signals to auditors that you’re serious about quality practices.
If you haven’t been through a virtual audit yet, expect that to happen in the future.
Virtual audits may have started off as a way for funders and stakeholders to complete audits safely during the pandemic, but they’re here to stay because of their potential to save time and reduce travel.
Unlike an in-person audit where someone comes to your facility, a virtual audit takes place through a combination of video conferencing and file sharing tools.
This is where an electronic system becomes a huge advantage. Because your files are already in a digital format, you don’t have to scan everything in. You can simply download the required files from your electronic system and upload them to the auditor’s preferred platform to review on their own time.
During the audit itself, the auditor may request to see additional files. In that case you can simply share your screen and pull up the files you need. This prevents you from fumbling around during the audit looking for a file or having to hold a paper document up to your computer’s camera.
Gone are the days of copying handwritten records and handing the auditor a manila folder. In today’s digital age, electronic systems allow you to easily share your records with the auditor anytime, anywhere. This saves everyone time and streamlines both in-person and remote audits.
Of course, it’s not necessary for an auditor to access all of your records at the same time. The best electronic systems make it easy for you to give auditors access to the exact information they’ve requested.
For example, you can create a separate login for your TCM auditor with their own username and password. Then, you can change the settings so they only see information for the specific individual they are auditing. This makes it much quicker and easier for auditors to find precisely what they need without having to sift through irrelevant information.
Another option in some electronic systems is to make the auditor an external portal user. As an external portal user, the auditor will be able to receive messages and forms you send to their portal for them to sign.
For example, you can request a signature on July’s monthly from a TCM case manager. If they come back later requesting another copy, you can quickly go back and retrieve it. It will also remain in their portal, which makes their auditing easier when it comes to quarterly monitoring.
Using an electronic system will help you stay organized throughout the year, reduce errors, streamline virtual and in-person audits, and make a good impression on auditors. The best time to start thinking about implementing an electronic system to help with audits is now.
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