Legislative and Regulatory Update | Compliance

Survey Underscores Growing Importance of Compliance and Ethics Training

Legislative and Regulatory Update | Compliance

Survey Underscores Growing Importance of Compliance and Ethics Training

In general, compliance professionals are not satisfied with the level of training provided to their boards. A lack of effective training could open organizations up to lawsuits and litigation.

Only 50 percent of compliance professionals said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the amount of training their boards receive, according to a recent survey.

The relationship between governing boards and compliance/ethics departments “has changed dramatically over the last several years” according to a recent survey conducted by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics (SCCE) and the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA).

This should come as no surprise to healthcare executives, given frequent reports of large fraud settlements and frequent oversight by recovery audit contractors, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

What may be surprising, however, are some of the key findings about compliance training for governing boards:

  • More than one-quarter (28 percent) of respondents reported that their board does not receive compliance and ethics-related training.
  • Of those that do provide training, 71 percent do so only on an annual basis, and an additional 13 percent do so less often.
  • Only 18 percent of respondents said they were “very” satisfied with the amount of training given, and 42 percent were “somewhat” satisfied.
  • Almost half (41 percent) were either “slightly” or “not at all” satisfied with the training.

Most respondents (73 percent) indicated that annual—and sometimes less frequent—live training was the method they used to educate their boards: Satisfaction scores with that arrangement were low. As the report states, “The level of satisfaction with training was far from a ringing endorsement.”

It should be noted that the SCCE and HCCA survey included organizations of all types—publicly traded and private, healthcare, and other industries. Nevertheless, the implications to be drawn from the findings are instructive for healthcare organizations:

  • Organizations that do not provide compliance and ethics training to their boards are at significant risk.
  • Those that provide training less than annually are at a disadvantage.
  • There is much room for improvement, even for organizations that provide annual training.

The report correctly points out that a lack of or scarcity of training would be difficult to explain to a prosecutor after an incident. “It is clearly the norm to provide training at least once a year if not more. That would be expected with the changing enforcement environment and the ever-increasing number of legal and regulatory risk areas facing organizations. Providing less than annual training may be perceived as deficient,” the report states.

Finally, the report notes that the compliance professionals who responded to the survey “were generally not fully satisfied with the level of training provided to [their boards].” This suggests that more can and should be done, but given board members’ heavy responsibilities, there will always be tension between the amount of training desired and the amount of time available.

Prosecutors and regulators will see the SCCE and HCCA survey report, so it will become evidence of the “standard of care.” It is, therefore, incumbent upon C-suite executives to ensure that proper compliance and ethics training be made available to board members and that a culture of compliance permeate the organization.

J. Stuart Showalter, JD, MFS, is a contributing editor for HFMA.

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J. Stuart Showalter

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