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Why Is a Code of Ethics Important Among Health Care Administrators?

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Health care administrators need to weigh the needs of patients, employees, the community they serve overall and the facilities they run. The decisions they make can affect many people’s health and welfare, medically, socially, economically and professionally. A code of ethics suggests ways for administrators and staff to work with integrity while they serve as many patients as possible and the hospital as a whole.

Professional Qualifications

The American College of Health Care Administrators' (ACHCA) code of ethics instructs its members to take responsibility for being fully trained and qualified for their management roles. This is important because both patients and staff count on administrators to ensure that the facility can and does provide high-quality and reliable care and treats everyone connected to the hospital, including vendors, equitably while running the facility effectively. Administrators should have business skills, current knowledge of all applicable laws and regulations, an understanding of the community the hospital serves and a thorough knowledge of both patient and employee/contractor rights. They’re also expected to seek continued professional training to improve their performance and that of their facilities.

Provision of Health Care

The ACHCA's code of ethics instructs its members to ensure that patients receive the best quality care "in light of resources or other constraints.” This reminds administrators that while they must consider the needs of the patient, they must also consider the financial and other effects of the hospital’s efforts to provide high-quality care for all. This consists of ensuring that medical personnel are trained to perform necessary medical procedures, that appropriate drugs are available and administered properly and that adequate numbers of well-trained staff are available to treat and care for patients. Quality care also entails learning about needs a patient may have that could hinder recovery and efforts to address them if possible. These are important ethical issues because by admitting by patients, the hospital has committed to doing all and the best it can to treat them, so must make every effort to do so successfully.

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Patients' Rights

The American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE) reminds its members of their responsibility to resolve “conflicts that may arise when values of patients and their families differ from those of employees and physicians.“ These conflicts can range from whether to use artificial means to keep a terminally ill patient alive to differing views on organ donation. ACHE stresses that any family members who act for patients sound have the right to make decisions and staff should be expected to determine and honor those choices.

With this in mind, administrators must also ensure that physicians educate patients about their medical options so that they or their loved ones can make informed decisions about what types of treatment to accept.

The ACHCA reminds administrators that patients’ health and other personal information must not be provided to “unauthorized personnel unless required by law or to protect the public welfare.”

Conflicts of Interest

The University of Virginia’s code of conduct reminds administrators to seek and negotiate bids fairly and accurately. It also warns decision-makers and other staff members not to accept illegal gifts, favors or payments from vendors or outside service providers. Codes of ethics require administrators to act, not selfishly, but for the good of their facilities, patients, staff and the community.

Equal Treatment

The ACHCA code warns administrators to avoid and prevent discrimination in hiring employees or treating patients on the basis of race, gender, age, national origin and other characteristics.

Reporting

Administrators who adopt a code of ethics agree to report any real or potential violations to proper authorities. These can include organizations such as ACHCA and ACHE, which have ethics panels that investigate violations and can impose disciplinary sanctions.

About the Author

Barbara Bryant has been writing professionally for 25 years. She has contributed to "The Military Engineer" and ASCE's "Civil Engineering" magazines as well as many other publications. Through newsletters and blogs, Bryant specializes in health and fitness topics, drawing on expertise from personal trainers and a naturopathic doctor.

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