Seven Elements Of The OIGs Model
Chief Compliance Officers (CCOs) know and understand the importance of adherence to rules, regulations and laws. Those of us in healthcare have as our north star the Office of The Inspector General’s (OIGs) seven elements of its model compliance guidance. The seven elements are based on criteria within the US Government’s Federal Sentencing guidelines. Hard economic times mean increased pressure on compliance professionals to reduce costs, do things more efficiently, and do more with fewer resources all while being required to give senior management and boards assurances that their compliance program is effective. Often overlooked is how the use of technology can make us more efficient in meeting the demands of our profession. Here’s how technology can help a CCO meet the seven elements of the OIGs Model Compliance Guidance.
1. Designation of a chief compliance officer: While technology can’t designate a CCO, it can assist them with its day to day responsibilities. The CCO is responsible for ensuring that the compliance program is effective and visible. Technology can be used to benchmark your program against others and to ensure best practices are implemented.
2. Implementing written standards and procedures: Critically important in this electronic day and age is how to maintain and distribute policies and procedures to your employees. Gone are the days when organizations printed and distributed compliance handbooks. CCOs should seek out technology solutions to assist their organization with the distribution of polices and standards. Using technology for your written standards ensures that employees are accessing the current compliance polices and not outdated, previous versions of policies. Technology should also be used for document control to track previous versions of policies and standards.
3. Conducting training and education: One of the hardest challenges a CCO faces is how to make annual compliance training and education fun, interactive, and informative. A variety of technology now exists to assist the CCO with this task including on-line training, real time interactive polling to assess comprehension, and a variety of other tools. Employees respond more favorably to interactive training and studies show that employees retain more of the presented material when interactive tools are used.
4. Developing open lines of communication: While most organizations have a non-retaliation policy, employees are still reluctant to report suspected violations of rules or regulations in person. Using technology to allow on line reporting increase the likelihood employees will report suspected violations to their CCO. Online technology becomes more efficient for them since the details of the suspected violation are inputted by the reporting employee decreasing the time that the CCO has to do data entry. Using this type of technology also ensures that reporting is tracked uniformly decreasing the risk of inaccurate data entry.
5. Conducting internal monitoring and auditing: Potentially the most important area for the use of technology is for internal monitoring and auditing. As resources get more scant, the use of technology can augment the CCOs auditing program. CCOs should embrace technology that allows them to track and analyze data trends, perform root cause analyses, and report statistical data to their boards on the effectiveness of their compliance programs. CCOs that do not utilize technology for monitoring and auditing will continue to utilize manual processes that are human resource dependent.
6. Responding to offenses and developing corrective action: Developing any corrective action requires the CCO to understand the issue. Most issues are data driven and accurate data is key to the development of appropriate corrective action. CCOs should be spending their time on analyzing the data rather than gathering the data and information. The use of technology also allows a CCO the ability to easily search previous incidents and provide ad hoc reporting. This ease of reporting also allows a CCO to quickly respond to any request for data from senior management, boards, or regulators.
7. Enforcing discipline through published standards: Key to any defensible disciplinary action against an employee is consistency of the enforcement. In order to demonstrate consistency, CCOs are responsible for impeccable documentation of their investigation and documentation of their discipline. Consistency of discipline is demonstrated by the records of previous disciplinary actions. Technology can be utilized to archive and search previous disciplinary actions to ensure consistency.
“One of the hardest challenges a CCO faces is how to make annual compliance training and education fun, interactive, and informative”
While there is no substitution for the knowledge and expertise of a seasoned compliance officer, a technology enabled compliance program demonstrates to internal stakeholders and external regulators alike, the effectiveness of the program. The sophistication of a compliance program goes a long way demonstrating to regulators that your program is more than mere window dressing. As regulatory enforcement continues to increase, technology can assist and be extremely valuable with document retrieval and data analysis. As a compliance program and organization grows, technology enables you to keep pace without the expense of manual human resources. The wise compliance professional will explore the vast array of technology resources currently available to our profession and embrace it.