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10 Pitfalls of Healthcare Compliance and How to Avoid Them

August 9, 2023
August 9, 2023

This blog is taken from a recent HealthStream webinar entitled “The 10 Pitfalls of Healthcare Compliance – And How To Avoid Them.” The webinar was moderated by HealthStream’s Caroline Acree and featured:

  • Jennifer Stoop, Senior Product Manager, HealthStream
  • Yvonne Padilla, IS Training and Program Manager, Asante
  • Kevin Donnelly, Strategic Advisor, Partner, 4Med
  • Danette Slevinski, Chief Compliance Officer, Atlantic Health System

Healthcare leaders know that ineffective compliance programs create risk, but if they cannot pinpoint what ineffective compliance actually looks like, it becomes difficult to build an effective compliance program. As shown below and discussed in our recent webinar, HealthStream and our industry expert partners have identified the top 10 most common compliance pitfalls.

1. Insufficient Resources

Stoop framed this pitfall by sharing that when resources such as budget, staff, and technology are inadequately allocated, it can hinder the implementation and maintenance of an effective and robust compliance program. Slevinski pointed out that, while it is critical that there is a budget line for the compliance program, it is also essential that compliance resources include the time and attention of the compliance department, but also of the organization’s senior leadership.

Padilla encouraged healthcare leaders to work hard to avoid the pitfalls of “swivel chair interoperability,” where users copy data from one application into another – a far cry from true interoperability, but a reality for many healthcare organizations. She urged leaders to allocate resources that support staff involved in these compliance programs.

The presenters also agreed that allocating sufficient resources would help ensure adequate staff training while providing a real presence within the organization with whom staff can interact and learn more about the importance of compliance.  


2.  Lack of Policies and Procedures

When organizations rely on manual processes, it can result in a lack of accountability and follow through. Compliance documents might be kept in a variety of different places with multiple versions in existence, which makes it difficult to create real visibility around the issue and it can also inhibit the development of comprehensive policies and procedures. 

Slevinski stressed that simply having a policy is insufficient. “It is critical that those policies are readily available to all staff, medical staff, and volunteers,” said Slevinski. Also, healthcare organizations need to be able to readily produce compliance documentation for regulators when asked.

Donnelly also stressed the importance of making policies and procedures as clear and understandable as possible and encouraged healthcare organizations to focus on educating staff to ensure that policies are well understood to avoid the risk of non-compliance.


3.  Inadequate Training and Education

Training and education are the best ways to help staff understand precisely what their compliance obligations are. Padilla encouraged healthcare leaders to really humanize compliance training to ensure that it is really meeting employees where they are. She also emphasized the difference between a compliance officer and an educator. It is important that the job of creating and delivering compliance education be done by professionals with a solid understanding of educational principles. She shared that using something like ComplyQ resulted in significant financial savings on the production of home-grown learning tools, but also allowed the compliance officer to really focus on compliance while secure in the knowledge that employees had access to engaging, and easy-to-understand content. 

Donnelly added that it is important to respect the unique needs of adult learners if we are to truly meet people where they are. He encouraged the use of subject matter experts and content that meets the needs of both visual and auditory learners while also providing hands-on experiences to truly reinforce the learning.


4.  Ineffective Communication

Ineffective communication can derail the best-intentioned compliance programs. Slevinski stressed that it is critical that the right information is communicated to the right staff in a way that they are going to be able to understand. She also encouraged leaders to remember that not all staff will have regular access to computers or regularly check their email. It is important to understand how and where to best communicate policy information to the entire team including some large departments, such as environmental services, for whom traditional methods might be difficult due to a lack of computer access.


5.  Inadequate Leadership

Senior leaders set the tone and the culture for the organization and have a significant role in ensuring that compliance initiatives are well executed. Padilla re-emphasized that humanizing compliance efforts could go a long way towards improving organizational compliance. “Humanizing compliance results in greater engagement and helps employees to really think about and question what compliance is and what it looks like,” said Padilla. She encouraged compliance leaders to reach out to departments to gain a better understanding of the team and what their compliance education needs are. She also encouraged both senior level leaders and boards to support compliance initiatives.

While the support of the senior leadership teams and boards are critical, she stressed that it is also important to develop departmental leaders with great management skills so that they can successfully cascade compliance messages throughout the organization.

To learn more about how HealthStream can help your team avoid the common compliance pitfalls, simply click here. Review the remaining 5 pitfalls by watching the entire webinar here