Hotline Effectiveness Tips

Richard P. Kusserow | May 2013

Monitor the Hotline

In order to ensure the effectiveness of the hotline function, the Compliance Officer must closely monitor it. A review of hotline reports may provide important clues as to how the process is working. For example, do employees frequently call back to find out what is going on with their complaint? Upon reviewing the hotline reports, the Compliance Officer may discover that there are a significant number of callers who have received little or no feedback. Another method for evaluating your hotline process is to review the hotline log for the time it takes to investigate and resolve issues. Does it appear that simple matters take a long time to resolve? If you answer “Yes” to either question, your employees may feel that the Compliance Office does not take their concerns seriously.

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Evidence Effectiveness of the Hotline

Evidencing effectiveness can come from an assessment of the steps following receipt of a call. If the primary objective of a hotline is to receive and resolve allegations of misconduct or other problems, then the Compliance Officer should carefully review this secondary process. A third party examining the process would want to see tangible results from hotline calls such as disciplinary action or enactment of new policies or procedures. Another important step to building employee confidence in the process is to develop a corrective action plan to address identified deficiencies immediately. Thus, a major component of your effectiveness assessment should be focused on secondary steps in the hotline operation.

Promote the Hotline

If you are confident in the training your employees received about the hotline, review your efforts towards promoting its use. Have posters that encourage the reporting of concerns been displayed in employee work areas? Have you shared information about hotline calls (i.e., the number, types, and subjects) with employees? Does management credit the hotline for operational changes when appropriate? Do supervisors and other managers encourage employees to use the hotline if they are uncomfortable raising issues directly with management? If not, you may want to consider revamping your promotional efforts. Other promotional ideas include wallet cards, payroll fliers and newsletter articles. One lesson learned is that publicizing the availability of the hotline should be a never-ending process.

About the Author

Richard P. Kusserow established Strategic Management Services, LLC, after retiring from being the DHHS Inspector General, and has assisted over 2,000 health care organizations and entities in developing, implementing and assessing compliance programs.