COVID and Compliance: The Changing Complexities

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Post by: Deann Conroy, J.D., Compliance Solutions Manager, Affiliated Monitors, Inc.

Nothing has surprised us all more than having to deal on-the-fly with COVID-19 and how it is affecting governments, businesses, trade, and people’s very lives. It is safe to say that the pandemic has taken us all by storm and we are now in the middle of it, rolling with the ever-changing rules, edicts, and suggestions.

In the first couple of months of the pandemic, we were all scrambling and trying our best to find some sort of “new normal”. Government regulators were sent home from the office and then later set-up to telework. Boards began meeting virtually and only deciding “emergency” matters, which did not include day-to-day compliance issues. Businesses were struggling to offer their services in new ways so that they could financially survive the pandemic. People were making face masks and looking for toilet paper to buy. Worrying about accommodating government compliance laws fell down the list of priorities.

While the crisis is far from over, the initial shock of being in a pandemic has passed. Now we find ourselves navigating new compliance challenges resulting from COVID-19. Many government agencies have released new standards, directives, and changes to what information we are to report to the government. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act made changes regarding employment and safety laws. There are government agencies that enacted new rules for financial services, life sciences, government programs, energy organizations, food service, and many other industries. But no one single industry has had to adapt as much as healthcare.

It is time for government compliance to make its way back up the priority ladder for professionals and businesses. “But we’re in the middle of a pandemic!” you may cry. It is a true statement but will not get you past the need to educate yourself on the new regulations and implement them in your business. There is no need to panic; it is the perfect time to re-examine your compliance and ethics culture.

Overwhelmed by all this?  Here’s a few bullet points that you can check off, one at a time  to lead to greater peace of mind:

  • Work together as a senior leadership team to understand the liability risks you face should you be found to be non-compliant.
  • Take the needed steps in order to detect the type of misconduct that is most likely to occur in your line of business and make a plan to combat it.
  • Check to see if your Policies and Procedures are still relevant. Update them as needed. Does your staff need immediate interim guidance?
  • Create step-by-step guidelines on your new compliance policies so that your employees know how to carry them out.
  • Review the current oversight controls you have in place. Are they enough? Do you need a new approach?
  • Would a change in some key roles and responsibilities be a fix for your company?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! There should be several different team members working on various parts of your compliance review. Make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.
  • Consider having a third-party assessment of your compliance plan and ethics culture.
  • You will need to provide training to your team members, as well as to any contractors, on your new and improved compliance program. Use technology as your tool.

COVID-19 makes these insecure and trying times for us all. Take this opportunity to really hone your compliance and ethics program. It will bring you peace of mind by fostering a positive culture that values compliance and ethical conduct. Only good things will follow!