How Healthcare HR and Compliance Can Partner for More Successful Employee Onboarding

Senior Director of Marketing

Healthcare compliance officers are challenged with overseeing their organization's compliance program, but they can’t do it alone, especially when it comes to new hires. They must partner with HR to ensure compliance is effectively integrated into the overall onboarding process.

“Employees can be your last line of defense or your worse security hole,” says David Sims, Managing Partner at Security First IT, an IT security and support firm that specializes in healthcare. “By empowering them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to help defend against privacy and security incidents, an organization will have a well-trained staff acting as a fortified last line of defense.”

It all starts with the onboarding process. Here are a few tips to help ensure new employees are on board and buy into your healthcare organization's compliance program. 

Customize Your New-Hire Training

Joanne Byron, CEO of the American Institute of Healthcare Compliance, says one of the most important steps for any healthcare organization is to have their compliance officer meet with HR. It’s important for both departments to go through what is required and to make sure the company is holding sessions for new hires and existing employees that are appropriate for those organizational needs. 

Byron also recommends that compliance officers work closely with HR to determine the biggest risks, the previous complaints, any open lawsuits, current practices and what needs to be updated, revised or changed.

But the training must also go beyond organizational needs and address specific requirements for each type of job. Byron says she routinely sees organizations putting every new employee through the same compliance training paces, even if their positions are significantly different. “The larger the organization and the more complex it is, the more need there is for customization.”

Relate It Directly To Patient Care

Relating compliance to patient care during the onboarding process can add synergy between departments. “In fact, HIPAA is not about compliance, it’s about patient care,” Sims says.

On a basic level, your company can accomplish this by training employees around privacy and security, but Sims says it’s very important that new hires understand why privacy and security are so important to the organization. “The importance must be around patient care, not ‘to protect the organization’ or ‘so you don’t get fired.’ ”

Sims also suggests using real-world examples during onboarding of what happens during a privacy or security incident. “Patients who have had their healthcare data breached or stolen are very vulnerable to fraud and identity theft, or worse. A victim of a breach can cancel their credit cards, even resolve stolen identities, but you can’t cancel your medical records.”

Gina Angelo, Senior Manager of Compliance for MedicarePlan Finder/Senior Market Advisors, an organization that serves the under-served senior population, says a company should start stressing the importance of compliance immediately by building it into the HR onboarding process. The aim is to establish the connection between ethics and employment status. “I like to say, ‘Consider being compliant a requirement of your employment.’ Along with this belief, we try to demonstrate that ethical behavior and business practices are not to be viewed solely as something we impose on our employees to protect the organization’s image. Instead, it relates to our way of doing business, period.”

Use Multiple Mediums and Tactics

It recently became clear that the company’s traditional “check-the-box” compliance training was not working as effectively as they had hoped, Angel says. “It got to the point where I would ask simple questions and no one was able to answer them. We decided to completely redo our compliance program. Instead of a pen and paper and emails, we switched to an actual live and interactive annual and new-hire training. We make it conversational, we do it as a group, so they're not just sitting there alone clicking buttons or just looking at a piece of paper. It forces them to participate.”

Using multiple mediums during training can also help promote clarity. For example, audio, video, gamification, podcasts, handouts and storytelling are just some of the methods that have shown to help enhance employee learning, Sims says. 

Whatever method or tactics your organization implements for new-hire training, the compliance department and HR must work closely together to integrate them into the onboarding process. In healthcare, compliance is too critical of an issue to leave to chance.

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