Max out the value of compliance
by Neil Caesar

Compliance programs can create effective structures for the general dissemination of information within the company—they can encourage effective personnel feedback, improve overall internal communications within your company, and can be used as the foundation for internal self-assessment—a value far beyond the regulatory compliance base. In general, if you can accept that internal compliance communication is key to your company’s program, then why not utilize your compliance program’s communication channels to benefit your overall flow of information? An effective compliance program enables a home care company to respond promptly and effectively to new statutes, regulations and judicial decisions that affect its operations. How does this benefit relate to internal communications? First, your compliance program will have procedures for 
disseminating important legal information, quickly, efficiently and practically. After all, an effective program creates special protocols specifically crafted to teach employees how to handle certain events or concerns, as well as protocols to allow staffers to evaluate whether policies or rules are being followed appropriately. Thus, when a new law or policy requires a home care company to acknowledge changes to its operation and incorporate these changes into its day-to-day workings, a compliance program’s internal evaluation system makes it easy to identify which formal policies and protocols must be modified, and to make those modifications quickly and efficiently. Second, two of the most important components of an effective compliance program are its monitoring and auditing functions. The program ensures that the company audits how well it follows its rules and policies, and further monitors how well the company follows the 
compliance program’s reporting, teaching, investigation and remediation duties. This means that a home care company must create an ongoing mechanism for personnel to discuss changes in the law, how these changes may impact the company and whether these changes require the company to look for new areas of potential non-compliance during its next internal self-assessment. Thus, the maximum time during which your company may inadvertently be out of compliance with new laws and regulations should be relatively brief, essentially limited to the time between internal audits. An effective compliance program will heighten a home care company’s awareness of ethical issues. Compliance issues do not always fall squarely into black and white divisions of right and wrong. Because they are judgment issues, the first step in resolving ethical problems effectively is to identify when they may exist. The ongoing training, which is part of an effective compliance program, will help heighten employee awareness of ethics issues. An effective compliance program’s ongoing operation also heightens personnel awareness of ethics issues. This is due to:

  • Repeated reminders (words and actions) that you are committed to full compliance with the law.
  • Ongoing monitoring and auditing process that focuses heightened scrutiny on compliance issues.
  • Ongoing communication about what issues or activities may raise ethical questions.
  • Increased awareness of how recent ethical issues have been resolved.

As a health care organization’s compliance program matures, its personnel become more skilled in investigating and resolving ethics issues. In addition, a compliance program’s implementation begins with appropriate training for all personnel. Home care companies often value training which includes some hands-on case studies and training exercises to improve personnel sensitivity to ethics issues and their resolution. Effective problem solving in this context usually requires personnel to recognize the potential problem, investigate the problem to confirm that it actually exists, and understand the different ways the problem may be resolved (prohibition, incentives, education, sanctions, etc.). These skills are enhanced through repetition and training—cornerstones of an effective compliance program.