Setting Up Your Internal Reporting Mechanism
One of the primary elements in a Compliance Program is the creation of a system that permits employees and others to provide information regarding potential compliance issues without fear of retaliation. In larger organizations, multiple pathways permitting employees to make anonymous complaints should be maintained. Oftentimes providers use 24 hour compliance “hotlines.” Online reporting systems or “drop boxes” are also commonly used. Whatever system is used, it is crucial that employee understand that they are encouraged to provide information and that there is a clear prohibition against others in the organization retaliating against them for providing information. It should also be made clear to employees that wherever possible the identity of the person providing the information will be kept confidential.
Establish Compliance Reporting Process
The establishment of the compliance reporting process and communication to employees that retaliation will not be tolerated is a central element to an effective compliance program. Such a system will help the practice obtain valuable information, hopefully early on, before the issue becomes a big problem. Additionally, the openness of the program will send a strong signal to the outside world, such as government regulators, that the organization takes compliance seriously.
If information is obtained through the hotline system it must be taken seriously. Certainly not every piece of information will be reflective of a serious compliance problem, and an employee could potentially have other motives for making a compliant. Regardless, it is crucial that the information be acted upon and that the action be documented. If the compliance officer concludes that there were alternative motivations for the complaint, that fact should be substantiated and documented. If an objective investigation indicates that there could be a compliance issue, the matter needs to be pursued through an appropriate outcome. Depending on the circumstances and the result of a thorough investigation, the outcome could range anywhere from additional training through a self disclosure to the government.