The Need for Corporate Accountability in Healthcare Organizations

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A hospital CFO talks to a board of directorsCorporate accountability represents the effects that corporations have on the lives of people, the environment and the communities in which they operate. This concept calls for holding companies accountable to prevent violations of human rights, abuse of natural resources and any other harmful impacts for which a company may be responsible. Corporate social responsibility is a similar concept that signifies efforts made by organizations to take responsibility for the effects a company has on environmental and social issues. Being corporate accountable and socially responsible means financial gain should not be the only major goal of an organization; entities should also strive to elevate the lives of people and their communities.

Corporate Accountability and Corporate Social Responsibility in Healthcare

Healthcare organizations differ from other for-profit organizations because, in addition to seeking financial gain for the companies, they also have a responsibility to provide quality care to patients and communities. Operating a healthcare organization involves a high level of complexity, and even though it is assumed that social responsibility is inherent within these organizations, there are still measures that need to be taken to hold the organization accountable. There are several challenges that healthcare administrators face when implementing social responsibility.

Changing healthcare regulations influence corporate policies, leading to a lack of economic stability. Increased bureaucracy often leads to redundant and wasteful procedures causing the implementation process of new socially responsible practices to be drawn out. In addition, healthcare has seen an influx of new, innovative technologies changing the way care is provided and posing new challenges to accountability. Healthcare administrators also have to contend with more people involved in the decision-making process, such as insurance providers, public officials, stakeholders, doctors and other healthcare professionals, making it difficult to instill corporate accountability practices throughout the organization.

Implementing a Culture of Accountability

Leading by Example

The first step for embracing corporate accountability in a healthcare setting requires that the organizational leaders, such as hospital administrators and managers, accept and adopt accountability practices. It is the responsibility of these leaders to show that they value social responsibility and require that it be an integral part of the team and company culture. Leading by example is an effective way to communicate these values to the entire organization and ensure that everyone is working toward the same goals.

Reducing Cases of Abuse

Some of the major problems that healthcare organizations encounter are fraud, corruption and abuse. Hospitals that are not protected from these harmful practices run the risks of failing to deliver proper care, contending with penalties and lawsuits, and suffering financial loss. It is critical that managers be accountable for compliance with standards and the improvement of performance in order to combat corrupt practices and system weaknesses that lead to inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Areas, where corruption may be found within a healthcare setting, include contracting procedures for new facilities, purchasing and prescribing pharmaceuticals, managing user fees, and personnel management. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide numerous resources on identifying fraud and abuse as well as the laws protecting physicians and patients from negligent practices.

Managing Waste

Healthcare organizations must also be held accountable for their involvement in environmental issues, and this deals in large part with the proper disposal of toxic medical waste. Improperly disposed waste can contaminate local environments and cause harm or death to animal populations. Organizations such as hospitals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology should determine the safest ways to treat and discard waste in accordance with antipollution and environmental laws to prevent any damaging effects to their surrounding ecosystems. Healthier Hospitals is a program started by twelve of the top U.S. health systems, including Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Bon Secours Health System. They focus on initiatives aiding hospitals in reducing energy and waste, using less toxic products and service healthier foods.

Protecting Cultural Diversity

Another way to implement a culture of accountability is to embrace diversity and establish strict non-discrimination policies. This applies both to employees who work at an organization and to the patients they treat. There should be nondiscriminatory hiring practices in place, along with policies protecting the privacy and human rights of workers. Employees should also be trained to understand and respect the diverse cultural backgrounds of patients so they are able to provide equal care to everyone. Philadelphia’s Main Line Health is a nonprofit health system that utilizes multiple strategies, such as advancing leadership diversity, in order to better create a culture of inclusion and respect.

Supporting Local Communities

Even though many healthcare organizations are competitive and profit-driven, they still have a responsibility to support the people and communities around them. Developing programs centered around community outreach will help employees stay socially responsible by showing them who is disadvantaged and where they can be of most help. Social responsibility for these organizations means being aware of community needs and providing useful services, such as public health education. St. Luke’s Health Initiatives is a health foundation from Phoenix, Arizona focusing on discovering the root causes affecting health in the community and working with civic leaders and other community organizations in promoting healthy policies based on local needs.

Corporate accountability is being adopted by many organizations in a variety of industries all over the world. It is also important for healthcare organizations to pay special attention to how their policies and procedures affect social, environmental and sustainability issues. Managing corporate accountability and social responsibility can benefit organizations from a business perspective, as well as the communities and people they serve.

Learn More

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Recommended Readings

Leadership in Crisis: How to Steer a Healthcare Organization Through Difficult Times
Maximizing productivity in healthcare
Sustainability and Hospital Management