An interim (or full-time) compliance officer in a healthcare organization, is a person whose job is to prevent and manage compliance violations due to operations outside of internal and external regulations set by overseeing bodies, such as federal, state, and local agencies. A compliance officer is up to date on and assesses all recent local, state, and federal policies and regulations. Also, they can implement changes as needed to an organization’s current procedures.
The interim (or long-term) compliance officer is your connection between your staff and the rules from official entities. Essentially, they are responsible for monitoring and reviewing the compliance procedures you have in place. A compliance officer is also tasked with taking disciplinary measures for employees who have operated outside of the regulations in order to deter further infractions. Having a compliance officer is integral to ensuring the good faith effort towards following policies and regulations, such as HIPAA.
The Role of the Interim Compliance Officer in Healthcare
Healthcare organizations need a compliance officer to make sure that their staff is current on information and rules regarding compliance. An interim compliance officer is, as the name states, a short, or longer-term, outsourced professional (or even a team of professionals) who covers the areas of internal compliance for a company during times of turnover, transition, or as otherwise needed. They have the ability to assess your current situation and see where the most important changes need to be made. Once they assess those inadequacies, they can step in without major disruption to your current staff.
The role of an expert interim compliance officer appears in many variations. While you are looking for a permanent position, you may need to fill in the gaps in the short term. Many times, organizations split or merge this role with other full-time roles within the company. As a result, team members become overworked and are unable to cover all of the needed resources. But an interim position addresses compliance needs without pulling your other staff away from their business-critical duties.
Plus, if you need compliance services for longer, an interim officer can easily transition to a more permanent role. The compliance officer can:
- Perform HIPAA risk assessments
- Create compliance checklists
- Build a sustainable corporate compliance program
- Reduce organization risk
- Train in-house staff in compliance
- Develop regulatory compliance processes
- Increase efficiencies and capabilities
- Reduce overhead
- Manage compliance risk and keep your operations working smoothly.
They can create and support a sustainable compliance plan for your business and aid in implementing that plan.
Do You Need an Interim Compliance Officer?
If you’re debating whether an interim officer could help you, consider these questions:
- Is your business in a time of transition or are you down some staff members?
- Are you able to comply with all of your current regulatory needs?
- Are you up to date on all of the current compliance regulations and policies? It is important to have an assessment of your current compliance to ensure adherence to current regulations.
- Is your staff overloaded with their task list due to compliance regulations and policies?
With COVID-19 still at large, all healthcare practices could use an extra set of eyes as new policies and regulations come at a record pace. A compliance officer can monitor these changes and make internal updates to policies as needed to comply. They can supply training to staff, monitor policy adherence, and take disciplinary actions towards missteps. A compliance officer outside of your organization will save you on costs and time and will be able to create and support a sustainable compliance program for your business.
What our Clients say
Our clients have told us that external (outsourced) support to manage and sustain an effective corporate compliance program has significant and cost-effective benefits.
Some of the reasons:
- Team approach: in-depth support by a lead consultant who can pull in additional resources, as necessary.
- Reliable budgeting: services provided on a fixed monthly amount. No need to manage hours or worry about the meter running when an issue comes up.
- Cost-effective: comprehensive service at a cost often less than hiring one individual.
- Professionals who focus on staying current with the compliance environment.
- Always advocate for complying with laws, rules, and regs, (doing the right thing) regardless of the “perceived challenges” to the organization.
- Long experience in health care operations – understand the clinical and administrative environments.
What to expect from an Interim Compliance Officer
Sometimes, it takes a set of fresh eyes on your situation to improve it, especially in the area of compliance. After all, you need to scrutinize your situation to ensure your company correctly follows federal, state, and local policies. With a third-party viewpoint, an interim compliance expert can approach any problem objectively. They don’t have the bias associated with an inner team member. In other words, they can assess your situation and make a plan with the team on how to move forward. They will not have any emotion or attachment affecting their judgment. They can easily assess any conflicts of interest too.
Without the overhead costs of benefits, time off, and sick leave that a full-time employee receives, the interim approach is a cost-saving decision for businesses in need. An interim officer provides the assistance of a trained, full-time expert without these added stressors or expenses. With this route, you also avoid the costs of internal onboarding and training, as well as the costs of potential mistakes during the training process. The interim position can also provide the most efficient solutions to problems using their experience, making the overall cost less for your business.
Interim compliance officers are experts in their fields, with years of hands-on experience under their belt to assist you in the best way possible. They can establish great standards for your institution, and they’ll have ample resources to do so. Ultimately, they can optimize your compliance plan using industry best practices.
In line with expertise, awareness of public changes in policies and regulations is key to staying up to date on compliance for your business. Industry awareness allows the interim officer to continue adhering to existing rules while updating your plans and procedures to perform better in the future. It’s important to find an officer that keeps tabs on the news so that you know your organization is also staying current.
Establishing effective communication is key. You want to have a skilled interpersonal worker who can connect with internal employees in a productive way. You also need to have good communication in times of a breach to help prevent further problems down the road. This skilled professional is there to assist in that very need.
HIPAA privacy and security
A compliance officer will ensure that you follow HIPAA guidelines and that you maintain privacy and security regarding protected health information. In the event of a breach, you can rest assured that it gets addressed. The officer will take disciplinary action against the offender. They will also take proactive steps to avoid similar problems in the future by re-educating staff on proper protocols.
An interim officer not only has the ability to create new policies, but they also have the ability to implement those changes into the workflow. These updates are in an effort to improve your adherence to rules and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels. Having someone who can deliver on the changes they want to make will enable your organization to run more efficiently.
Interim, long-term, and even Permanent
The right interim compliance officer specializes in assisting physicians, hospitals, and many other healthcare organizations in their compliance needs. They should be able to offer short-term, long-term, and permanent compliance outsourcing for your business based on your needs. Some interim officers only offer temporary support and sustainability, but the right fit for your company should provide more.
The interim officer should take on every part of the full compliance officer role for your company, including corporate compliance. For example, you may need interim services for a hospital transition. While many larger companies have the internal staff to accomplish this without overloading their current staff, many smaller companies do not. An interim officer can take the burden off your current staff whether it be for a short-term contract or longer. Many officers are also flexible, providing temporary consulting services initially but being able to extend their assistance for several months or years. This scalability allows the officer to provide a solution that is aligned with your specific needs, rather than a standard cookie-cutter process.
COVID-19 and disaster policies
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the extra steps that organizations need to take, compliance is a more complex subject. Now, society is seeing an emergence of telehealth appointments, and compliance with regulations is more important than ever with this new modality of treatment. You need to make sure that your compliance department is fully staffed, and a compliance officer can help with that.
The interim officer should be an expert in the field and help you navigate these new restrictions regarding COVID-19 and many other disaster plans. Because of the turnover that has been associated with COVID-19, you may be in a position where an interim compliance officer would be a perfect fit for your business.
Many organizations are short-staffed as it is, and outsourcing some resources is helpful in saving money. Companies can save on costs by avoiding compliance infractions and starting new compliance policies as they are updated externally. While not having to pay the overhead of a full-time employee, you can feel secure in the fact that your staff is being monitored for compliance issues (both intentional and unintentional) during these unforeseen times and in other acute times of need.
Compliance is a Responsibility
You need to make sure you and your staff are covered in areas of compliance regulations and policies. If not, you will be subject to penalties by the local, state, and federal governing bodies of compliance. You need an expert to oversee your staff and policies to ensure you stay compliant. As your business changes and grows, you may see times of required staff coverage to meet your compliance needs.
If you find yourself in this category, consider outsourcing your compliance needs. Outsourcing will give you the strength of expertise, oversight, objectiveness, cost-savings, effective communication, HIPAA privacy and security, implementation skills, awareness, and a fresh perspective on your business and its current practices. Having this person supplement your internal practices will only help you be more successful in the future.