How Employee Engagement Enables a Culture of Compliance in Healthcare


Post By: Gerry Blass, President & CEO, ComplyAssistant, and Margarita Derelanko, MA, CHC, former Director of Compliance, Acenda Integrated Health

What does it mean to create a “culture of compliance?” It’s not so different from similar efforts around patient safety. But hanging posters about hand washing, or just saying nurses are permitted to speak up, is very different than creating a culture that truly empowers employees to act. You want your staff to not only adhere to security and compliance policies and procedures, but also be part of the broader team who advocates for compliance across the system.

Healthcare organizations simply cannot continue to rely on traditional training methods and call it day. Building a culture of compliance takes more than watching a video and checking a box. Your employees need to be engaged, to feel empowered, for a culture of compliance to thrive. And, there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun while you’re at it.

Let’s look at four reasons why engaged employees are essential in creating a culture of compliance.

  1. More productive, more value.
    As healthcare organizations, we should challenge ourselves to think of employee engagement as an investment rather than an obligation. Studies show that engaged employees are more productive and create more value. It stands to reason that staff who are involved in how an organization delivers security and compliance training, who are able to lead discussions about compliance, and who can help make decisions are more eager to promote the culture of compliance within their teams. Thus, security and compliance training held at the corporate level will be more impactful and transformational.
  2. A legion of advocates.
    We all deal with limited time and resources. It’s just not feasible to have a compliance team member on every floor, in every department or at every location. However, when you have truly engaged employees and teams, you create a legion of advocates who can act as your proxy – an extension of your team – for security and compliance in the field.
  3. No longer “caught in the act.”
    Sometimes, security and compliance training and enforcement can have a negative connotation. Do your employees roll their eyes when the annual HIPAA training comes around? Or are they fearful of making a mistake, or of reporting non-compliance activity? Though you do need a training program, and it does need to be enforced, the perception of the process can change. Try to focus on prevention rather than punishment. It takes time to change perception, but it can be extremely rewarding to build relationships with employees who actually learn and apply their knowledge for the betterment of the organization.
  4. A sense of belonging.
    Distance can be a challenge to creating a culture of compliance across a geographically dispersed organization, but you need to find the balance between online tools and in-person interaction. Make the investment to implement live security and compliance training, hold staff meetings and ask questions of the staff. With knowledge gained from face-to-face time, you can fit the training or solution to the team. When you spend one-on-one time with staff, you’re building relationships and getting them involved in creating the solution. Employees will react more favorably than with online tools alone.

You may be thinking, “We have standard HIPAA training in place, and it works fine.” That may be true, but there is always room for improvement. Why keep putting your staff through the same old dreaded security and compliance training? It’s not terribly engaging, and though it checks a box, it really doesn’t go that extra mile to create the culture of compliance you want.

Instead, try one (or more!) of these tactics:

  • Create a new training methodology.
    Since HIPAA can be cumbersome and confusing, create a new HIPAA training presentation that only features one policy per slide. With content provided in smaller, understandable chunks, it is easier for staff to digest and apply the information.
  • Start a Compliance Advocates Committee.
    Give your employees a platform to engage with their peers, create new training methods and share ideas across departments. Not only will this help build your legion of advocates, but your staff will feel empowered to develop compliance efforts that work specifically in their own areas.
  • Celebrate an annual Compliance Week.
    Let your employees be the stars! For Compliance Week, ask your staff to create their own security and compliance videos. Give them a scenario and watch them come up with their own story, sometimes in fun and quirky ways. Then, show all peer videos during Compliance Week. Not only is this a more engaged way to train staff, but we find that training and tips are generally rated higher than food and prizes for our Compliance Week! For more ideas, check out HCCA’s Corporate Compliance & Ethics Week coming up November 1-7, 2020.
  • Use gamification techniques.
    We know that people learn in different ways, so let’s extend security and compliance training beyond the annual video and associated test. Incorporate games into your training program. A few examples include photo hunts, stickers, and amusing rhymes that act as mnemonic devices that can help staff remember certain rules and procedures.

Creating and maintaining a culture of compliance is not easy, especially if employees are unaware of what they should know and how to apply it to their everyday work. Policies and procedures for security and compliance exist for a reason, but human nature and daily distractions will stand in the way of true comprehension. Employee engagement is the remedy. Call the meeting. Go talk to them where they are. Make learning fun. Your staff will come along for the ride and even become a driver (or a passenger) in your compliance vehicle!

About the Authors:

Gerry Blass (President & CEO, ComplyAssistant) brings over 35 years of experience in healthcare information technology. A former CISO, Gerry founded ComplyAssistant to provide software and service solutions for HIPAA and IT strategic planning.

Margarita Derelanko (MA, CHC, former Director of Compliance, Acenda Integrated Health) is a Certified Healthcare Compliance (CHC) practitioner with over 7 years of compliance experience. Most recently, Margarita served as a Director of Compliance at an integrated healthcare organization, overseeing an enterprise-wide compliance/privacy program.


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