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Health System Ethics Made Simple

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 13, 2011
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"What we want from every one of our doctors, nurses, and employees is we want everything to be focused on the patient. We have to make a margin, no doubt, but if there ever is any question, our response is always default in favor of the patient," he says. "It really does make it simpler when you think of defaulting in favor of the patient. Everything we do has to revolve around our values and constantly be brought forth."

C-suite leaders at Scott & White are physicians, including CEO Alfred B. Knight, MD (who retires in 2011 and becomes president of Scott & White Healthcare Foundation), and his named successor, Robert Pryor, MD, who had served as COO and CMO. The clinic's board of directors is also composed of working physicians in the health system who interact daily with the clinical staff. They understand they are role models who are expected to travel across the health system, visiting every site and demonstrating the highest ethical and professional standards.

"That is a critical piece of the puzzle that we have. We are not just administrators or governance members or even a management team," Avots-Avotins says. "We still work. We have to do the same things the rest of our docs have to do."

David Huddleson, vice president of corporate integrity, and chief compliance and audit officer at Orlando Health in Florida, says everyone in the healthcare sector, from the smallest physician's office to the largest health system, should expect more scrutiny for ethical and compliance lapses. That enhanced attention will come from the government, the media, and the public, as healthcare costs continue to rise, and everyone with a financial stake in healthcare will be looking for explanations.

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