Compliance departments, generally speaking, guide staff and boards of directors to comply with the requirements, laws and regulations that govern the organization’s business. They also monitor for compliance via internal audits. Risk departments, on the other hand, address ways to mitigate risk to an organization through such activities as the evaluation and purchase of insurance policies. Given the broad nature of the scope of these two departments within the organization, when is compliance and risk collaboration permissible?
- Strategic planning: Collaboration here should include not only compliance and risk but the entire organization and the board of directors, if applicable.
- Disaster response and business continuity: As with strategic planning, disaster response and business continuity planning should also involve input and collaboration from all departments in the organization.
- General security and privacy : Here the compliance/privacy officer, information technology/security officer, and risk management director should all be included in the planning.
- Known security threat and/or breach incident: Compliance, information technology (IT), and risk management would all participate in mitigating a security threat or breach incident on the organization. Each would provide input and guidance on their respective areas of knowledge.
- Risk assessments, gap analysis and mitigation plans: Again, the development of these plans should include leaders from the entire organization; moreover, compliance and risk would specifically collaborate on the assessment, analysis and mitigation activities.
- General policy development: Compliance and risk staff can collaborate and provide feedback and input for all organization policies.
- Record and document retention schedule: Here compliance and risk can collaborate with legal counsel to ensure record and document retention policies comply with state and federal laws.
- Staff education: This is an area where compliance and risk can collaborate to provide training, whether it is done in person, virtually, by email or via online course.
Collaborations to vet and evaluate permissibility
- Security breach: As noted above, compliance, IT, and risk will work together once a security breach has been identified. It is important to ensure compliance addresses HIPAA related information and potential reporting requirements; IT evaluates the technical aspects of the breach; and risk focuses on reporting to the insurance carrier and mitigation strategies in conjunction with compliance and IT. These collaborative activities will usually take place under a breach coach or law firm to protect the confidential nature of the breach.
- Shared work areas: Depending on the confidential nature of discussions, say a lawsuit against the organization, it may or may not be appropriate for compliance staff to be privy to such information. So shared work areas should be closely evaluated.
- Shared staff: As with shared work areas, if a staff member such as a registered nurse (RN) is shared between the compliance and risk department, both leaders and the RN must remain in the scope of the job role in which they are working at the time.
- Reporting to the board: Typically, compliance reports to the organization’s leader (such as a CEO) but also has direct or dotted line reporting to the board of directors. Make sure any collaborations with other departments do not create potential conflicts of interest with reporting up this chain of command.
- Committee membership: As with the analysis discussed above, make sure to vet compliance staff member membership on the risk committee and vice versa to avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest.
All organizations should work to develop a culture where permissible collaborations between compliance and risk occur. They should also make certain that staff feel comfortable calling the compliance or risk department with potential concerns while ensuring the staff not crossing any lines when it comes to compliance or risk department confidential matters or conflicts of interest.
- Evaluate opportunities for the compliance department to collaborate with the risk management team, as noted above.
- Access youCompli to find resources which address required document and record retention requirements.
Denise Atwood, RN, JD, CPHRM
District Medical Group (DMG), Inc., Chief Risk Officer and Denise Atwood, PLLC
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article or blog are the author’s and do not represent the opinions of DMG.
Denise Atwood, RN, JD, CPHRM has over 30 years of healthcare experience in compliance, risk management, quality, and clinical areas. She is also a published author and educator on risk, compliance, medical-legal and ethics issues. She is currently the Chief Risk Officer and Associate General Counsel at a nonprofit, multispecialty provider group in Phoenix, Arizona and Vice President of the company’s self-insurance captive.
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