What are the roles ethics committees and institutional compliance offices play in administrative ethical issues?
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The ethics committee of any health care organization has as a main focus to implement, enforce and safeguard the two most important factors of quality assurance: standards and procedures.
Standards are described as a level of quality that will be put in place as the "norm". The standard guides the practices and use of interventions in the organization. The higher the standard, the higher the potential for quality. Therefore, an organization can be predicted by the level of its standards. Usually those organizations that do not fear imposing high standards upon themselves are those who are highest functioning. Standards can be applied to:
A procedure is a protocol to be put in place for all administrative actions and other interventions. For example, "before-during-after"protocols should be put in place for testing, for treating, as well as for grievances, complaints, services, billing, etc.
Since the ethics committee oversees the proper use of standards and procedures, it also will be a key factor for evidence and documentation. This is mainly because protocols must all be dated, classified, and kept. Hence, all the documentation will come from the procedures and whether they were properly followed. In all, the ethics committee will ultimately decide whether any issue in a health administrative office is, indeed an issue or merely a complaint.
The office of institutional compliance could act as the headquarters for the ethics committee, as well as to other service personnel that ensures the proper following of laws and regulations that govern the organization. The term "compliance" means to agree to follow an agreement. The "agreement" in question has to do with the policies that rule such as hiring, terminating, refusing to offer service, right to acquire information, right to obtain medical records under HIIPA (1996), and other procedures that involve accountability and performance rates.
This office will serve as the "go to" place where all documentation, questions, statements, laws, protocols, and standards are readily available and openly discussed. The influence of an institutional compliance office on a health care administration group is that, like the ethics committee will be the driving force that will determine whether practices are being conducted under the guidelines established for the institution, whether fair practices are taking place, and whether all clients and employees alike are treated with the same amount of respect and fairness. These types of offices are often the make or break of an organization, because the moment a group is accused of unfair practices chances are that their ranking within the community will drop considerably. Hence, there should be a consistent training of information, standards, procedures, and regulations available as refreshers for employees particularly.
The following example from Texas Tech University's compliance office's mission statement helps to illustrate its exact duties:
The mission of Institutional Compliance is to advance an institutional culture of ethics, integrity and compliance with applicable laws, regulations and policies, ...monitoring and responding to non-compliance.
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