Day-to-Day Ethics: Little Things Make a Difference

What are the seemingly 'small' things that HME providers can address to ensure that they incorporate the four principles of ethics — and DMEPOS supplier standards — into their businesses?

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Ethical values are essential for any healthcare provider. We know there are four principles of ethics — autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. In fact, “ethos” is Greek for “character,” and ethics are the moral principles that govern how a person or group behaves — the moral correctness of conduct. 

Frequently, professional organizations offer guidance to assist members in the execution of their duties as members of the profession. A professional is likely guided by several codes of ethics and standards of practice that relate to a person's industry, licensure, certification, and employer relationship. But it is up to us to determine what our internal “code of ethics” is on the situations we encounter every hour of every day.

What does this have to do with us, working in the healthcare industry? Plenty! We are required to follow the 30 Supplier Standards of the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) as well as other rules and regulations. While there is some guidance and oversight, it is up to each of us to code correctly, bill properly, and deliver in a timely manner — to do the right thing. So what stops the majority of people from stepping over the line? Listening to their own inner voice and their own ethical knowledge of behavior in a socially and ethically responsible way.

Issues involving ethical behavior should concern managers in any business, but these are especially delicate in the healthcare arena. With the sensitivity involved in healthcare data, combined with life-or-death stakes, the ethical capabilities of workers in the healthcare industry are of utmost importance. Doctors, nurses, and technicians must work alongside administrators, insurers, and government agencies to provide the patient the best healthcare experience while maintaining ethical behavior.

As business owners, managers, and administrators in this industry, it is our duty to have a strong moral compass so that our ethics guide us too make the right decisions for our businesses. To make sure your ethics are strong and unwavering, you need to start with the “small stuff.”

Here are some good points for you and your staff that will keep your moral compass set to automatic pilot:

  • Clean Up Your Mess: Not just trash and spills — any mess or miscommunication. Regardless, accidents can happen, and it is up to you to clean it up and take credit or blame as appropriate. 

  • Follow the Rules: We are guided by rules at work, at play, while driving, and while working. The rules at work were instituted for a reason, not just for your safety and well-being, but for your fellow workers as well. Let’s be fair and respectful in everything we do by following those rules.

  • Honesty is the Best Policy: Our industry is unique in that we work with people placed in incredibly difficult, stressful situations. An accident, diseases and disabilities, and other circumstances have placed them in your hands to do the right thing — be honest with yourself and them.

  • Respect One Another: We should respect everyone and treat them fairly as a human being. Show your respect and offer common courtesy to everyone with “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and other words and phrases interjected into your speech pattern. Refer to people as “Mister,” “Miss,” “Ma’am,” and other titles. This shows respect for those individuals and others as well. 

  • Take Responsibility: Immediately acknowledge a problem as soon as you are aware, recognize how not to repeat it, provide a solution, and, finally, apologize for the situation. 

  • Work Hard: Give your best effort to your employer and clients every day. Don’t cut corners, be on time, and put in a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. Don’t learn the “tricks of the trade” — learn the trade. Everyone who has a stake in your paycheck expects nothing but the very best from you every day. 

As you can see, by starting with the “small things,” and being the example for your staff to follow, the “big things” should not be an issue. Let’s make sure we follow our own code of ethics and choose our day-to-day behavior, so we don’t have to suffer the consequences as a company and as an industry.

About the Author

Margaret “Peg” Terry joined Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC) in March 2020 as the Corporate Clinical Liaison and oversees quality improvement and clinical excellence. She also has broad experience in providing comprehensive clinical standards and education for the industry. She has a BS in nursing and earned a PhD from the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

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