Kusserow’s Corner: Hiring Experts to Cover Compliance Officer Vacancies

In today’s challenging regulatory environment losing a key leader from a sudden departure often creates a near crisis, leading to ad hoc decisions rather than relying upon a well-thought-out plan. Many organizations turn to expert consultants to fill and gaps in the key leadership positions, including that of Compliance Officers. The decision is often made to either hire that expert to provide interim servicing or possibly outsourcing the function to a consulting firm. Decisions of this type are becoming an increasing common. Most health care providers have developed such a program and many have been operating them for a considerable period of time with a second and in some cases a third generation of compliance officers. This has resulted in a high rate of movement among compliance officers that are retiring, moving to better opportunities, removal of incumbents, or any other of a dozen reasons. This, in turn, has led to many compliance officer vacancies and organizations without day to day management of the compliance program which increases risk of unaddressed serious problems and potential liability. These concerns are only growing at a time when mandatory compliance requirements as a condition of participation are under development in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

The question is whether these gaps can be filled by a temporary replacement of an Interim Compliance Officer (ICO). Depending on the size of the organization, it may take some time to find and hire a full time replacement. The average time an ICO normally serves is 90 days, but in some cases, it may run as long as six months or more. In some cases smaller organizations may need only a part time ICO to keep the program going and in other cases, it may be a full time temporary assignment. All this makes the problem of finding quickly a highly experienced and qualified expert that is willing to take on such an obligation, especially if they are not local to the area. Not everyone is willing to relocate for a temporary assignment. Also, it may be costly to hire such an expert for a temporary time frame.

There are a lot of benefits in using a qualified ICO, possessing a lot experience and technical skills. The key in investing in an IRO is to design the engagement to bring an optimum return of benefit for the cost by ensuring a lot of added value. Some things worth considering include:

  1. The ICO can provide the benefit in having a ‘fresh set of eyes” in examining the program to confirm strengths, but also identifying opportunities for improvement.
  2. The ICO could be charged with conducting an independent evaluation of a compliance program that will be reported to senior management and the board. The ICO can be relied upon to provide independent and objective feedback on the status of the compliance program, as well as providing an assessment of high-risk areas that may warrant special attention.
  3. The ICO could review the existing Code and other written guidance; evaluate the quality and effectiveness of compliance training; quality of ongoing monitoring of high risk areas; etc.
  4. The ICO could assist in assessing resources needed to effectively operate the compliance program.
  5. The ICO could be charged with identifying or building metrics that evidence compliance program effectiveness.
  6. The ICO could be used to assist in the identification and evaluation of candidates for the permanent position.
  7. The ICO could provide a “road map” for the incoming compliance officer to follow that can assist them in getting off “on the right foot”.
  8. The ICO can be charged at the conclusion of the engagement to prepare and deliver a comprehensive report for management and board on the state of the compliance program.

Although the idea of using an ICO may have a lot of merit and provide the answer to some real problems, finding properly qualified experts who are will to relocate temporarily, or commit to significant amount of time necessary for the assignment may be difficult. If searching the Internet for available experts, consider using key words like Interim Compliance Officer, Designated Compliance Officer, or Outsourced Compliance Officer .

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2013 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.