Are You Starting Out As A Healthcare Compliance Officer?

February 4, 2021 RLDatix Marketing
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With over a decade of experience in the healthcare industry as a policy and contracts management solutions vendor, we have engaged with several hospitals and healthcare workers, such as compliance officers. From such engagements, we have noticed that starting as healthcare compliance officers may at first seem a bit nerve-wracking. This is mainly due to the critical nature of the position as its primary role is to ensure the healthcare facility is safe from non-compliance. Thus, we decided it would be a good idea to help shed some light on the matter and give advice to those that are just starting out as compliance officers.<\/p>\n\n

So, you have just joined an organization as the new Healthcare Compliance Officer. Congratulations, to both you and the hospital!<\/span><\/em><\/p>\n\n

It is very likely that this is your first time covering this position, and I am sure you have many questions. Do you know your roles and responsibilities? Do you understand how you are supposed to “fit” into the organizational structure of the hospital? Do you know how to get the staff to be on your side?<\/span><\/p>\n\n

Unfortunately, the answer is not in the organizational chart they hand you during your employee orientation session. If only it were that easy!<\/span><\/p>\n\n

If you have received training in becoming a Healthcare Compliance Officer, you may have your own ideas and expectations based on what the school curriculum covered. Nonetheless, in most cases, textbook information is not realistic either. You need to figure out how to transform the guidelines you obtained from your education and mould them to fit your new organization’s structure and expectations. Essentially, that is what you need to figure out:<\/p>\n\n

\"healthcareWhat Type of Healthcare Compliance Officer Are You?<\/span><\/h2>\n\n

A Corporate Compliance Officer often addresses the business ethics, billing fraud, EMTALA, code of conduct, privacy laws and other business relations. On the other hand, a Regulatory Compliance Officer is often responsible for the standards and accreditation requirements for a variety of agencies. It is important that the type of compliance for which you are responsible be articulated clearly.<\/span><\/p>\n\n

Your understanding of the position should accurately reflect your job description, and your hospital should clearly outline expectations for you. Ideally, there would also be some preferred educational requirements. Such as a starter guide to “Becoming a Certified Healthcare Compliance Professional\/Officer.” I would also highly recommend that you go to the HCCA website, where there are tools and resources to help you in your role, as well as opportunities for continuing education and certification. They also have an excellent document titled “Evaluating and Improving a Compliance Program – a Resource for Healthcare Board Members, Healthcare Executives, and Compliance Officers.”<\/a><\/span><\/p>\n\n

The Attitude Toward Compliance<\/span><\/h2>\n\n

When I am “out on the floors”, I frequently hear staff say that they do things to be<\/span>
\n“compliant” with the Joint Commission, or the next survey. Instead, I try to explain to them that we do things to prevent patient harm and to be ready for the next patient. However, just hearing the way they refer to compliance gives me some insight into why some people have a tendency to shy away from those who are in compliance roles.<\/span><\/p>\n\n

To clarify these reasons, let’s look at some standard definitions for compliance. Webster’s definition of “compliance:”<\/span><\/p>\n\n

  1. A) The act or process of complying to a desire, demand, proposal, or regimen or to coercion. B) Conformity in fulfilling official requirements.<\/span><\/li>\n\t
  2. A disposition to yield to others.<\/span><\/li>\n\t
  3. The ability of an object to yield elastically when a force is applied; flexibility.<\/span><\/li>\n<\/ol>\n\n

    Concerning the first definition (compliance being the act of complying with a regimen or coercion), you can see how staff would be a bit resistant to you approaching them about an issue if they perceived you as the “enforcer of conformity.”<\/span><\/p>\n\n

    Regarding the second definition (a disposition to yield to others), staff may behave submissively knowing they have to listen to you and go along with what you say and want implemented.<\/span><\/p>\n\n

    Finally, according to the third definition (the ability of an object to yield elastically when a force is applied – flexibility), there is nothing more disheartening than working with a member of the healthcare team who uses their title to “bend staff into shape.” When healthcare staff regards the word “compliance” with those connotations, they are hardly going to be “flexible.”<\/span><\/p>\n\n

    For those of you – like me – who are visual learners, think about what happens when you put enough force on something that is rigid and not resistant to change: it will break. This is why the integration of a Compliance Officer is met with such tension.<\/span><\/p>\n\n

    After the break, often a mess is left behind, and there will be pieces to pick up. How do you prevent these clean-ups from occurring in the first place? You need to change the perception of resistant staff, and to do that, you need to understand capacity and capability.<\/span><\/p>\n\n

    Changing Perceptions<\/span><\/h2>\n\n

    The IHI (Institute for Healthcare Improvement) has an excellent series on leadership as it relates to Quality Improvement.<\/span><\/p>\n\n

    In this series, they discuss capacity as:<\/span><\/p>\n\n