For hospitals and healthcare organizations to thrive in todays environment, executives and medical staff must strive to develop a guiding framework for the entire organization to follow. Every decision we make has potential consequences for our patients and communities, and we must be prepared to make difficult choices in an ethical manner.
As president and chief executive officer of CMC Healthcare System and Catholic Medical Center and also as chairman of the American College of Healthcare Executives, I have a two-pronged focus. The first is within my organization by working with all staff to ensure we are mission-driven and patient-focused. The second is as ACHE chair, where my focus is working to advance the profession.
To ensure that everyone is aware of ethical dilemmas and that they make ethical decisions, I personally talk with all staff (including new employees) about the ACHEs Code of Ethics and the Catholic Health Associations view of ethics. I talk about what I expect from healthcare executives and healthcare providers.
The Code of Ethics is a tool that can be used to help everyone make the right decisions especially in times where there might be an absence of rules. It provides a structure when one might not exist.
If you use the notion of ethics as a guiding principle in your organization, it impacts behavior and decisionmaking and prevents most people from doing things they are unsure of. It also discourages people from doing things that are unfair, dishonest or immoral.
CMC focuses itself ethically by considering the patients perspective. Executives have an ethical obligation to ensure everyones experience is excellentso do our voluntary medical staff and everyone who directly or indirectly comes in contact with patients. Everyone has a role and they know how it fits into CMCs overall mission.
To encourage this behavior, CMC developed a presidents cabinet to give younger people a voice in the operations and make our organization a better place to work. By getting buy-in and showing how ethics plays an important role, we have created a core value for doing things better.
CMCs employees know how important it is to ensure that patients and their families experience confidentiality, courtesy and consistency. These three qualities are at the center of everything we do. At CMC, we want our patients to realize that they will receive the same personalized attention every time they use one of our services.
It is no longer enough to simply share financial information with our communities. We must be able to quantify what we are doing and also share how we are helping to improve the communitys health.
Hospitals are experiencing an expanded definition of ethics to include transparency. In todays environment, programs and financial information should be disclosed to our community. Organizations should share their core measures, provide report cards, and publicize outcomes and cost data.
Executives also should understand how to balance the obligations of past leaders. (The ACHE has a new ethical policy statement on this topic). As organizations, we must be fiscally responsible, but also ensure that all parties concerns are addressed. We need to have clear benchmarks of how we are making a difference.
Healthcare organizations should foster and demand ethical behavior and decisionmaking. But ethics cannot be left to chance; an ethical organization will not just evolve. Rather, it is the result of ethical leadership, continuous reflection and planning, ongoing monitoring and accessible, competent ethics resources that help people move forward.
For this reason, the ACHE developed an Ethics Toolkitfound at ache.orgto provide practical resources to help healthcare executives understand how to integrate ethics into their organizations. These tools can support healthcare leaders in the day-to-day practice of exemplary leadership.