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Innovation and Compliance – Allies or Adversaries?

Y-Comply, a service of the Health Care Compliance Association, is a compliance-related article delivered quarterly to subscribers via email.

Y-Comply is intended to help communicate the value and purpose of compliance and ethics to the general workforce. You are free to copy this article to your organization’s website or electronically distribute it to your workforce; no attribution to either HCCA or the article's original author is necessary.

Every industry strives to improve or create new products, services, or methods to remain competitive in an ever-changing market. Most often an organization’s pillars of strategy include areas of focus like finance, quality, people, service, and community. The pillars are intended to represent the focus of the organization as it achieves its mission and vision and establishes its goals and plan, whereas the values help define how the organization intends to carry out the work. Innovation and compliance are often defined as part of the values of the organization, and they are essential factors in an organization’s strategy for defining its culture and how the work is done.

There are those who might see innovation and compliance as having conflicting views, and too often it’s been the perception that compliance and ethics get in the way of innovation. The perception may sometimes be true, but it depends on the processes an organization puts in place to review, approve, and manage innovative projects. Innovation and compliance are both necessary to help the organization move successfully into the future.

Culprits that often get in the way of collaboration are personal agendas (including competition for resources or position) and meeting timelines and goals. Innovation requires tight timelines to address either market change or needs and efficiencies; whereas compliance requires enough time to obtain a clear picture of the project scope to ensure regulatory risks are understood and properly assessed.

When compliance is seen as just a check box at the end of the process, people tend to see the department as “red tape” and a barrier to avoid altogether, or they are less than transparent about all the details. Sadly, this can result in consequences beyond delayed projects or adjusted goals and timelines. Organizations may encounter the short-lived success of driving through a new product or service, but spend more time and money on managing the consequences of less than desirable outcomes caused by inadequate stakeholder input and assessment. However, when an organization designs and implements processes to include compliance from the beginning, it becomes a valuable partner to help the organization achieve its goals successfully.

A partnership philosophy with compliance and ethics is the most effective way for an organization to succeed in implementing its strategy and fulfilling its mission, vision, and values. This can best happen through a clear understanding of department functions and individuals’ roles. When organizations create decision trees, guidelines, and checklists regarding expectations for appropriate stakeholder input and assessment, including compliance, it helps create a culture of collaboration. It also keeps integrity and compliance with laws at the center of the organization’s values and communicates its expectations for how work is to be developed and carried out. As Edwards Deming said, “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”


Deann Baker

Deann M. Baker, CHC, CCEP, CHRC
Compliance Professional


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Health Care Compliance Library
HCCA offers members and registered guests access to an extensive library of articles. Information provided covers topics in corporate compliance and ethics in healthcare organizations. Contributing authors include attorneys, chief compliance officers, providers of auditing, monitoring, coding, billing and technology services, and other members of our compliance community.