Across the industry, eyes probably roll every time there is a new compliance requirement, a compliance update, or yet another system need. Not because people are against doing business the right way, but because of the burden, time, cost and distraction that these things bring.
One conversation that likely does not take place, or gets quickly dismissed, is that these compliance programs and activities not only serve to protect patients and risk, but also have important business benefits. Considering that the needs and burdens of compliance will never go away, it is time to embrace them—not as only a cost of doing business, but for the many benefits that they bring, including the 10 listed here.
1. Reduces organizational and individual risk
Avoiding legal troubles and fines, often representing hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, is a good thing. These are dollars that could have been ploughed into more research, patient education, access programs or returned to shareholders. In addition to those hard costs, there also are softer ones that come from negative media attention and adverse public and customer perceptions. Finally, the business disruption that comes from investigations, subpoenas, depositions and corrective actions can be very costly as well.
2. Enables less hesitance and more confidence
Imagine a city intersection with no stop signs or traffic lights, i.e., no rules. Everyone coming through that intersection would hesitate coming to the corner and slow down to a virtual standstill. Traffic lights, signs and guides give us the confidence we need to act with less hesitation. When people have rules and know them, they can be more confident about doing their jobs. Essentially, believe it or not, a well-designed and implemented compliance program can actually prevent paralysis and help an organization move faster and more confidently.
3. Uncovers better data for better decisions
Compliance programs have forced a big clean-up of nomenclature and definitions, including the harmonization of systems and data, and ensuring clarity around what things are and what they are called. They also force the complete, accurate and timely documentation of activities and expenses. This clarity and good data availability—or transparency—are bringing about increased visibility, which is critical for informed investment and planning decisions. Senior management, in many cases, is learning for the first time what really happens at the activity level, and to what extent.
4. Gives the gift of efficiencies and economies of scale
Creative people, by nature, are always coming up with new ways to achieve results. The problem is every new idea, process, program, system and role tends to get piled on with very little attention paid to what already exists or how things are done. Of course, creativity and innovation are critical for every business, but there is something to be said for cutting duplication and streamlining functions, roles and activities. The increased visibility from compliance allows for this simplification, which results in a leaner business machine. Compliance also shines a light on activities that may be more lavish or frequent than necessary, or simply inconsistent with a company’s mission and purpose—resulting in important savings that can get invested into more meaningful programs.
5. Results in a smaller, better organized toolbox
There is something to be said for a situation where the number of choices is less than infinite. The new narrower and clearer definitions and categories provide good filters and reference points against which every new proposed activity, program or role can be tested. More often than ever, questions are being asked as to why a proposed activity is important or valuable in the first place. The net effect is a smaller set of options and a more defined and informed way to choose from them.
6. Levels the playing field
One benefit that industry-wide rules, or in some cases, voluntary practice changes bring is a more level-playing field. For various reasons, some companies may put more or less emphasis on one area versus another, they may interpret laws and regulations in slightly different ways, or they may assess risk differently, resulting in what seems to be different application. But these differences tend to be small in the overall scheme of things. As the expression goes, “Starting with a level playing field, everyone has an equal chance.” In the final analysis, the quality of the products and the science behind them, the quality of the people, and the attention to execution are what stand out and make a difference.
7. Helps realize a company’s mission
Most companies’ mission statements include information about corporate responsibility, the importance of patients, and on the benefits they bring to society. Behaving in ways not consistent with their stated values can render them not only useless but also damaging. Compliance programs help a company act in ways consistent with these values. This is because policies and guidelines tend, when properly designed, to address not only external laws and regulations but also a company’s internal and external aspirations. In other words, it is not only about what is or is not legal or is required, but also about doing the right thing.
8. Enhances relationships with regulators and other stakeholders
When regulators and other stakeholders deal with a company they perceive has high ethical standards and practices, has clarity of purpose and follows clear policies and guidelines, it makes their job a lot easier. Although it may not court any favors or privileges, it enables a richer discussion about what really matters and likely allows for faster, cleaner decisions based on a higher level of trust. Regulators and other stakeholders such as payers, medical societies, hospital systems, etc., have stated in public forums that they tend to view companies with high standards in a different light.
9. Reminds us that transparency is good business
Countless times in my career, I have experienced and witnessed the favorable reaction that transparency brings when customers get the full, open and honest story. We have all seen instances of what happens when this is not the case and, unfortunately, many doors have closed as a result. Compliance has strengthened this area. For example, ensuring that balancing information is part of the core message can result in a more productive and credible interaction. This earned reputational capital with customers can be critical not only in good times, but also in times of adversity.
10. Helps attract and retain talent and ensure employee engagement
Most of us have dedicated many years to this industry. We do it because we truly believe in the value that we bring to patients and healthcare overall. Job seekers look for companies that have a good reputation in the business segments and communities they operate in and look for a sense that their work truly matters. The same is true for a company’s current employees—people want to stay with a company that has strong values. The benefits include the ability to attract and retain great talent, lower cost of recruitment and employee churn and, of course, the incalculable value of strong employee engagement.