How to Manage Being a Healthcare Compliance Officer

Senior Director of Marketing

In observance of Healthcare Compliance & Ethics Week, I thought I would share some takeaways from a recent HCCA regional conference session I attended titled, “How to Manage Being the Compliance Chief Cook and Bottlewasher”. In this session, speakers Dana Bonecutter, Compliance Officer at Connally Memorial Medical Center, and Terry Reeves, Sr Vice President - CCO at Harris County Hospital District, shared how the role of the compliance officer has evolved and what it means to be in healthcare compliance today. While traditionally focused on billing compliance, the healthcare compliance profession has evolved along with the growth and ongoing changes of the healthcare industry. While not an exhaustive list, here are a few ways you can strengthen your organization’s compliance program.

A Culture of Ethics and Integrity Is Key

Don’t forget the ethics portion of your compliance program. As healthcare compliance officer, new employee education is part of your responsibilities. It’s critical to indoctrinate each new employee so that they understand the importance of “acting with integrity.” This was also one of the key takeaways from the HCCA 2014 Compliance Institute. Healthcare organizations that incorporate ethics in their company culture will have stronger and more effective compliance programs. If your organization as a whole understands the importance of “doing the right thing”, then your compliance program is set for success.

Be a Resource for Your Organization

Clinicians and administrators are so busy with patients, that they don’t take the time to think about compliance issues. That’s why compliance officers stay up-to-date with the latest healthcare regulations affecting your organization. All of that knowledge, however, won’t do you any good if you don’t have the right attitude and approach. According to the presenters, the recommended approach involves establishing yourself as a resource to your staff. Take the time to work on your relationships with your staff and set aside any arrogance. You have to play nice but hold the line and make sure things happen.

Cooperate With the Government—Timely

While being the subject of an OIG audit may not be on anyone’s wish list, it’s important to approach situations like these with care. Make sure you read any instructions carefully and that you provide exactly what is asked of you and respond to all of the questions. Make sure that you do not answer anything else that is not asked of you. Finally, pay close attention to deadlines and make sure you don’t miss any when it comes to dealing with the government. If you feel you may not be able to meet one, it’s recommended that you call them beforehand. Under some circumstances, such as natural disasters before a deadline, they may be more lenient.

Have a System That Works For You

As healthcare compliance officer, it’s important to keep track of everything. It’s imperative that you develop a system that works for you. What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. You can use a combination of notebooks, electronic tools, or other project management software. I am personally a fan of tools like Evernote and Google Drive myself, but I find that for some things I prefer to just write things down. If you’re an Excel guru, then that may be the method for you.

I hope you’ve found some of these points helpful as you continue to strengthen your organization’s compliance program. I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our readers a happy Compliance & Ethics Week. Please let us know in the comments section below how you are observing this week at your organization.