Ensure Compliance and Accountability in Healthcare

Julie Horibe, BSN, RN, CPN

When mistakes happen in healthcare, organizations are responsible for recognizing and taking action to prevent them from happening again. However, safety protocols may not help mitigate future errors. This Catch-22 creates challenges in ensuring compliance and accountability in healthcare.

Teams must understand the root cause of a given result to implement safeguards. That, in itself, is complicated because the source of errors and mistakes may not be clear. Organizations are also accountable for recognizing areas of potential failure and proactively guarding against harm, which is nearly impossible without knowing what caused the incident. 

In this article, we will explore the challenges of accountability in healthcare and how organizations can effectively develop strategies to manage this intricate dance of responsibility.

Why Is Accountability in Healthcare Challenging? 

The word “accountability” gets a bad rap. While initially intended to describe how we can “account” for the impact of our actions – positive or negative – it is usually only associated with blame and punishment. The essence of accountability remains consistent regardless of the situation. If we believe we can create success, we must accept that we bear some responsibility when things do not go as intended. 

Adverse healthcare incidents usually result from a combination of factors, making identifying any specific root cause difficult. Being accountable doesn’t mean identifying one source of accountability. It is a process. Several factors contribute to making the process of compliance accountability challenging:

Complicated Regulations

Given the complexity and volume of information healthcare professionals must manage alongside their primary patient care responsibilities, it is unrealistic to expect them to maintain complete awareness of every regulatory change. Consequently, holding them fully accountable for compliance without ensuring adequate support and resources for staying informed is inherently challenging.

Balancing Ethics

Healthcare often involves navigating gray areas where the best course of action isn’t straightforward or agreed upon. While gray areas are common in all walks of life, there is an added pressure when dealing with a patient’s life. Healthcare professionals frequently grapple with the “right thing to do.” This creates uncertainty in how their decisions will be judged and complicates the accountability process.

Budget Limitations

Healthcare systems often face resource constraints such as staffing shortages, razor-thin budgets, and barriers to patient access. Healthcare organization leaders may grapple with providing high-quality care and operating within these constraints.

Inherent Risk of Errors

Unfortunately, mistakes are prevalent in healthcare. They range from minor oversights that go unnoticed to catastrophic outcomes. Navigating and managing patient care in a high-risk environment triggers a whirlwind of emotions that complicates maintaining accountability and identifying areas requiring attention. In adverse occurrences, shame, guilt, and fear of consequences may surface–overwhelming individuals and impeding their ability to accept accountability.

Strategies To Ensure Compliance and Accountability

Accountability in healthcare requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both systemic challenges and individual behaviors. Here are key strategies I recommend to improve accountability within healthcare organizations:

  1. Be Proactive: Verifying the credentials and ethical standings of healthcare providers mitigates risks for organizations, protects patient safety, and protects their reputations. 
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations for all individuals. Provide online, anytime access to HR documentation, policies, and procedures. 
  3. Identify Trends: Analyze incident report data to identify and correct issues before they become a big problem. Use training to promote accountability without negative consequences.
  4. Provide Comprehensive Training and Education: Be proactive in assigning training to ensure employees have the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.
  5. Ensure Transparent Reporting: Implement transparent incident reporting for adverse events and near misses, where healthcare professionals can report incidents without fear of retaliation. Transparent reporting fosters accountability by allowing organizations to identify trends and implement preventive measures.
  6. Foster a Culture of Safety and Continuous Improvement: Creating a non-judgemental culture that prioritizes open communication and learning from mistakes encourages transparency and accountability at all healthcare system levels.
  7. Invest in Technology: Investing in technology solutions in healthcare enables automation of processes, including streamlined documentation, real-time monitoring, and compliance tracking. These advancements improve efficiency, reduce errors, and enhance accountability by providing healthcare professionals with accurate, up-to-date information, standardized care processes, and timely alerts for potential non-compliance issues.

Embrace Compliance and Accountability in Healthcare

Fostering accountability in healthcare is not just about assigning blame. It’s about creating a culture of responsibility, transparency, and continuous improvement. By addressing the challenges head-on and implementing robust strategies to prevent and respond to adverse outcomes, healthcare organizations can pave the way toward safer, more compassionate care for all. 

Together, let us embrace accountability as a neutral guiding principle, ensuring that every action and decision, regardless of outcome, serves the best interests of patients and the broader community.

Implementing an all-in-one compliance solution, such as MedTrainer, can further support organizations in enhancing accountability and driving excellence in healthcare.


See how MedTrainer can streamline your compliance.