Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations are full of physicians who have no idea what the compliance team does. If it’s the case at your organization, you must first educate your medical staff.
Minimally, physicians must be told about regulations, enforcement news, advisory opinions, the OIG work plan, trends in your state, and information relevant to their specialty. But there are many other ways to educate physicians about the compliance process.
Best practices include offering different types of training (online, in person, etc.), incorporating tactics for all different types of learning styles, and asking physicians themselves how they prefer to receive training. One thing you should avoid is scheduling an educational session for members of the medical staff during their negotiation with your facility. If you try to talk to a doctor about regulations during a negotiation, it can be difficult and can lead to mistrust. If you can’t avoid training during ongoing negotiations, consider having training leader hired from outside the organization.
The best way to start engaging physicians in your compliance and legal programs is to get to know them. It sounds so simple, yet it truly is the key to successful engagement. If you don’t know any physicians on the medical staff, start by meeting some. Get comfortable walking the halls. Introduce yourself freely and often. Ask another executive with good relationships if she can introduce you to key physicians you should know. Learn about physicians’ individual interests, their specialities, and their families. Make yourself visible and make it clear that you like hanging around doctors. Be knowledgeable about their profession, it makes a big impact with doctors. Building relationships with physicians at your organization is never a waste of time and is always the first step in engagement.
Establishing trust is key. If your medical staff does not trust the compliance team, in particular it’s leaders, you will never get them on board with your message.
Always frame compliance in terms of what doctors care about. Though this could differ from organization to organization, even physician to physician, a great place to start is with patients. Demonstrate how important compliance is to generating good outcomes in patient care. These issues are at the core of every physician’s priorities; what physician wouldn’t get on board with improving quality at their organization?
When it is time to revise policies and procedures, particularly when it affects physicians’ work, ask for their input. Place them on committees that steer compliance at your organization and truly listen when they give feedback.
Look to other departments within your organization that have successfully engaged the medical staff. How did they do it? What could you borrow from them? Identify leaders within the medical staff that understand the importance of compliance and ensure they promote key messages to their peers and across the organization. Making sure that at least a physician or two sits on important committees within compliance and legal is also best practice.
Lastly, we have found that physicians respond quickly when they hear about real-life examples of physicians getting into legal hot water. It is a good motivator for many!
Compliance and legal should work as a team and jointly make decisions on risk management. Both parties have complimentary skill sets that are best used working together.
Compliance and legal often work hand in hand, but especially when there are potential issues, it is crucial that they present a unified force. Though compliance often discovers potential issues, they should be sure to keep legal updated so as to enact privilege at the right time.
Attorneys can help determine how much to waive privilege on and what should be covered. It is always easier to release privilege, but very hard to go back and put information under privilege.
If you’re a compliance officer or work in compliance or legal at your organization, ask yourself if you know any physicians who work at your hospital. If the answer is no, or only a few, you have some work to do.
At its core, physician engagement is about building relationships. You are extremely busy, as are physicians, so how do you find time to invest in building these important relationships? Try asking for physician input when revising compliance procedures, training, or policies. Build a physician steering committee for compliance-related issues. Ensure that at least a physician or two is on your organization’s compliance committee. Lastly, try walking the halls of your organization and introducing yourself to your physician colleagues.
Put a friendly face on compliance for your physicians, and you are one step closer to ensuring compliant and high-quality care at your organization.