Celebrating Healthcare Corporate Compliance & Ethics Week

Senior Director of Marketing

It’s time for healthcare organizations to examine, spotlight and celebrate their compliance programs and personnel as part of Corporate Compliance & Ethics Week, which is May 4-10, according to the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance Association. During these days, healthcare organizations are encouraged to recognize their compliance officers, build more awareness about the important work they do and take steps to better understand new compliance initiatives.

What Compliance Officers Do

Compliance officers have a variety of responsibilities across a healthcare organization, and these often depend on the organization’s size. A major challenge is “keeping patient data safe while allowing clinical professionals the access they need for treatment,” says Michael Judd, IT Infrastructure Manager and HIPAA Security Officer with gloStream, which provides software solutions for healthcare organizations. Keeping up with HIPAA and other information security regulations can be a burden, but making compliance and access manageable for everyone adds to the difficulty.

In addition, Judd says, the need for ever-stronger security can create a kind of fatigue when it comes to putting together effective passwords. “New users tend to be aloof and resistant to tighter security measures,” he says, which ends up putting protected information at risk.

Keeping track of people who are authorized to possess protected health information is also an issue, Judd says. And a constantly changing set of policies, educational efforts and revised standards can be a headache for compliance officers. “Communicating changes is becoming a challenge and a blessing,” he said. “We're learning how we can create priority while being as efficient as possible with each update.”

Ethical and Legal Obligations

The importance of the work compliances officers do can’t be overstated. “They have the responsibility of identifying and detecting ethics and compliance risks while preventing, investigating, and remediating violations,” says Alicia Shickle, CPC, CPCO, CPPM, Director of the AAPC’s Compliance Division. These positions may also be involved with evaluating or recommending investigations into compliance violations, identifying risk, putting together action plans and reporting to executives about the organization’s compliance.

Compliance officers also need to be familiar with legal ramifications. “Personal liability is of growing concern among compliance professionals,” Shickle says. “Creating a culture of ethics and compliance within the organization is key to establishing an effective program.”

And as with many other departments in a healthcare organization, compliance may have to compete for limited resources, Shickle says. “Many have tight budgets and are forced to do more work with fewer resources and inadequate, fragmented tools. 2014 is likely to be another challenging year for healthcare compliance professionals who have the difficult task of keeping up with regulatory changes.”

As a part of Corporate Compliance and Ethics Week, many organizations introduce new training programs, policies, procedures and codes of conduct to raise awareness about what’s required and what’s at stake when it comes to compliance, according to the HCCA. Organizations may also hold events that highlight ethical awareness and foster more effective compliance. In case you missed the HCCA 2014 Compliance Institute in March and April, we put together a list of 7 key takeaways from this year’s conference.

What is your healthcare organization doing for Corporate Compliance & Ethics Week this year?