Real-life examples make the code easier to apply.
The HFMA Code of Ethics applies only to HFMA members, yet it can be argued that any healthcare financial management practitioner can follow these standards of professional conduct. The code is designed to establish standards for healthcare financial professionals, but some of the concepts covered in the code, such as avoiding conflicts of interest, are typical among such codes. Other concepts are specific to healthcare settings and the healthcare financial management profession.
The Seven Standards of the HFMA Code of Ethics
Professional associations seek to offer guidelines to their members, and codes of ethics are tools to accomplish that goal. It is the affirmative duty of professionals to embrace the standards of their professions and ensure that other members do so. HFMA’s code reads as follows:
As a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, I will endeavor to promote the highest standards of professional conduct by:
- Practicing honesty and maintaining professional integrity, including avoidance of conflicts of interest with those of my employer or the Healthcare Financial Management Association
- Adhering to high standards of personal conduct
- Striving for the objective and fair presentation of financial information
- Fostering excellence in healthcare financial management by keeping abreast of pertinent issues
- Maintaining confidentiality of privileged information
- Promoting a greater understanding of financial management issues by others in the healthcare field, and seeking increased public understanding through communication about such issues
- Seeking to maintain a reasonable balance between quality and cost of health care
Examples of Ethical Behavior Under the Code
Any code is easier to apply if you can picture it in action. With that in mind, here are case examples pertaining to each standard.
Practicing honesty and maintaining professional integrity, including avoidance of conflicts of interest with those of my employer or the Healthcare Financial Management Association. One example of this standard is the common business practice of requiring board members, senior executives, and some other employees to sign conflict of interest disclosures. Healthcare financial professionals who deliberately alter or inaccurately depict data to make reports look better fail to adhere to this standard. Any lies or misrepresentations are threats to honesty and integrity.
Adhering to high standards of personal conduct. Serious violations of this standard include professionals who are convicted of crimes. Less serious illustrations are displaying information on social media accounts that reflects poorly on the profession or organizations.
Striving for the objective and fair presentation of financial information. Healthcare financial professionals embody this standard when they present financial information such that multiple stakeholders can understand it and use it to facilitate understanding, problem solving, decision making, and evaluation. Another illustration is when financial information is presented with enough time for individuals and groups reviewing the information to engage meaningfully in presentations.
Fostering excellence in healthcare financial management by keeping abreast of pertinent issues. An example is continual engagement by healthcare financial professionals in professional development by taking courses, reading literature, attending conferences, teaching courses, and conducting research. Another illustration is when a healthcare financial professional demonstrates curiosity and openness when interacting with other healthcare professionals to challenge and broaden their points of view.
Maintaining confidentiality of privileged information. Healthcare financial professionals may ensure that as individuals, they do not disclose information related to employees or patients who may regard this information as private and protected. In addition, healthcare finance professionals develop and continuously improve systems, processes, policies, and procedures that ensure the preservation of confidentiality in the organizations.
Promoting a greater understanding of financial management issues by others in the healthcare field and seeking increased public understanding through communication about such issues. Healthcare finance professionals follow this guidance by formally or informally educating other healthcare professionals about the state of financial affairs at particular organizations and how to interpret such financial information. Another example is a healthcare finance leader who engages with the public by advocating on healthcare finance matters.
Seeking to maintain a reasonable balance between quality and cost of health care. Ethical healthcare finance professionals do not consistently prioritize cost and profit over quality of care and quality of experience. This is especially the case in not-for-profit settings in which fiduciary duties are aligned with the organizations’ missions to serve communities first and the financial status of organizations next. Another example is balancing quality and cost of healthcare not just for patients, but also for employees of healthcare organizations.
These examples of the HFMA Code of Ethics are merely a beginning. Bringing these standards to life in your daily practice as an efficient, effective, and ethical healthcare financial professional are key to developing successful careers and healthcare organizations.
Reputation matters. The reputation of the profession, associations you belong to, your employer, the department, and you as a healthcare professional and person depends upon the decisions you make and how you treat others. Ethical decision making is a core component of establishing and preserving an ethical reputation. Ethics does not have to be abstract. Ethics can and should be practical, and ethical practice begins with knowing the highest standards of an association and living by those standards.