Earning and retaining trust: Q&A with Jeanne Strickland
The health care industry is highly regulated, with rules and guidelines designed to protect the safety of both patients and employees.
Helping to ensure that Michigan Medicine complies with these regulations is Chief Compliance Officer and Privacy Director Jeanne Strickland. Headlines recently sat down with Strickland to discuss compliance and the vital role it plays in earning and retaining trust in the organization. Here’s what she had to say!
Q: Can you explain to readers what “compliance” is?
JS: At Michigan Medicine, it’s necessary to follow the rules and regulations that govern our industry. Our Compliance department helps the organization monitor, track and follow those rules. Our team identifies the risks that an organization faces (identification). We design and implement controls to protect our organizations from these risks (prevention). Next, we monitor and report on the effectiveness of those controls in the management of our risks (monitoring and detection) and work to resolve compliance difficulties as they occur (resolution). Finally, we advise on the creation of and our adherence to these rules and controls (advisory).
Compliance is about following the rules, but at its core, it is also about retaining trust and a positive reputation as an organization. You can put a price on certain rules — that is, the fine or penalty imposed for noncompliance — but you can’t put a price on a good reputation. At the end of the day, we are all — at every level and in every department — accountable for that reputation.
Q: What is the difference between compliance and ethics?
JS: Compliance is about following the law; ethics is about doing the right thing even in the absence of a specific law or policy. Compliance is typically driven by the government. Ethics is driven by standards identified by the organization as being important to uphold, including our Code of Conduct, professional codes like the Hippocratic Oath, and other agreed upon expectations set forth by the institution.
Michigan Medicine’s Code of Conduct and Compliance Program provide a framework to ensure that we act with integrity in every aspect of our operation. Acting with integrity means we are compliant with external and internal rules and regulations and we incorporate ethics into all of our actions and decision-making. When we commit to acting with integrity, we earn the trust of our patients, colleagues, regulators and the communities we serve.
Q: Why is compliance so important in academic medicine environments?
JS: We serve a large and diverse group — patients and their families, researchers and their study participants, faculty and their students, the government and those who pay us for the care and services we provide. All of these entities entrust us with their care, their safety, their education and their dollars. We must earn and maintain this trust every day and in every interaction by acting with ethics and integrity and adherence to the rules governing these interactions. Every day we are privileged to provide individuals with the most intimate and important care they need. For this care to be effective and for us to sustain this relationship, it must be based on the trust we earn by always doing the right thing. Just like families and loved ones, if we lose trust, we lose the relationship and, for Michigan Medicine, this means we then lose the business and the reason why all of us are here.
Q: What projects or initiatives is the compliance team currently working on that will help the organization meet its strategic goals?
JS: We are working on a new policy management system which eventually will serve as a “one-stop shop” for policies, making it easier for people to find them. After all, if we want employees to understand and follow the rules, they have to know where to find them!
We are also working with a new hotline vendor to improve the experience for those who report concerns. In addition, the new software will provide better data aggregation so we can identify and address the concerns that are brought forward. This, in turn, will allow us to better understand risk areas and communicate them back to employees and leaders.
Some examples of risks may include sharing of sensitive data outside the organization without appropriate agreements and security measures; understanding and following billing rules that frequently change; and maintaining chain of custody requirements in the handling of controlled substances.
Q: What can all employees do to help foster an environment of compliance in their respective work areas?
JS: Open and clear communication is essential to our success. Everyone who works here is entitled to raise concerns with leadership. The feedback received provides an opportunity for systemwide improvements. In fact, communication and input is one of the action items that came from the recent employee engagement survey.
I encourage leaders to regularly ask their team members for feedback: both positive and constructive. This can be done in a variety of settings such as one-on-one meetings and rounding. Leaders and employees alike can learn more about feedback, including how to ask for it by checking out the Feedback is a Gift campaign. All of these materials are housed on the compliance training and education section of our website under manager tools, posters and additional resources.