Kusserow on Compliance: Compliance officer best practice tips

The ever increasing health care regulatory and enforcement environment increases the challenge for compliance officers. It is not enough to develop the seven standard elements of a compliance program. Compliance officers must persuade the organization to adopt those elements by changing the culture of the organization. This requires a lot of effort. It can be called preaching or selling—it amounts to the same thing. The following are suggested tips:

  1. Obtain independent evidence of compliance program improvement by periodically having independent experts evaluate its effectiveness and offer suggestions for improvements.


  1. Maintain ongoing metrics to benchmark progress of the compliance program effectiveness, such as using a compliance culture or knowledge survey that evidences improvements from one period to another.


  1. Do not compromise principle in the face of skepticism and sometimes resistance with leadership, and those who consider compliance to be a distraction to their job. Once you begin to “cave in” to their unreasonable disagreements, it creates a pathway to ineffectiveness.


  1. Educate management on the benefits of compliance in assisting in reducing risks that could give rise to liabilities and loss of reputation. The challenge of selling the message is ongoing.


  1. Sell the importance, value, and benefits of the program to the board, leadership, and the rank and file employees. Also sell the consequences not having an effective program. Gaining “buy-in” by the executive leadership and Board is the best path for the compliance officer to be effective.


  1. To be truly successful, compliance officers must reach and convince first line managers to carry the compliance message to their subordinates, by word and example. What they say and what attitudes they project to their staff is far more powerful than pronouncements from “on high.”


  1. Rank and file must see compliance as responsive to their concerns and this means actively and promptly investigating and resolving matters raised by the work force in a competent professional manner. Also, the compliance officer needs to be visible and available to hear what concerns people have; as such, it is good to walk around and talk to people about their jobs, thoughts, concerns, etc. This is all part of selling the program.


  1. Successful compliance officers seek cooperation and coordination of effort, not competition, with other functions that overlap with compliance, such as HR, Legal Counsel, and Internal Audit. If these functions engage in turf battles, it will negatively impact the effectiveness of the compliance program. A lot of benefit can come from developing protocols (policy documents) that establish working relationships and methods of cooperative effort.


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.

Connect with Richard Kusserow on LinkedIn.

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Copyright © 202o Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.