Managerial ethics refers to principles and rules dictated by upper management that define right and wrong within an organization. Healthcare organizations handle situations with a direct bearing on another person’s life. Therefore, they need to act ethically. While people in managerial roles in healthcare might not come into direct contact with patients, they have ethical obligations. In this article, we shall look in detail at some of the ethical issues healthcare managers face and how adhering to managerial ethics benefits healthcare organizations.
Ethical issues that healthcare managers face
There are several ethical issues that healthcare managers face in their day-to-day duties. These issues include:
By law, medical records and health information should be kept safe and private by all healthcare professionals. The healthcare manager must ensure that confidentiality is not breached. This may involve making difficult decisions about who can access patient records and under what circumstances.
Allocation of resources
Although the burden of inadequate resources might also affect individual nurses, it mostly lands on nurse managers and other healthcare executives. When healthcare facilities have scarce resources, managers must make difficult decisions, which may lead to patients not receiving proper care. Ideally, resource allocation in health should satisfy two main ethical criteria: cost-effectiveness and equity. However, it is incredibly challenging for managers to look at things from an economic point of view at the expense of the patient’s wellbeing. For instance, a healthcare manager may need to choose between hiring more staff to offset shortages and repairing medical equipment.
Staffing and employment practices
Healthcare managers have an ethical obligation to their employees. To begin with, healthcare managers have an ethical obligation to treat every employee fairly and equally. This includes ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunities for advancement regardless of characteristics such as race, religion, and gender. It is also the healthcare manager’s ethical mandate to ensure that the workplace is diverse and inclusive. For instance, they should ensure that the recruitment process is transparent and fair.
Most importantly, the manager should ensure all employees receive fair compensation and benefits. They also need to ensure that the workplace is safe for all. This includes strategies such as providing protective gear and enforcing safety protocols in the workplace.
Another important consideration for healthcare managers is whistleblower protection. Managers must ensure that employees who come forward to report illegal behavior are protected. There are several ways of doing this, including putting a confidential reporting system in place. They must also ensure that all reported cases are thoroughly investigated, and that appropriate action is taken.
Ethical marketing practices
The issue of ethical marketing in healthcare has always been a big debate. How can administrators justify spending hundreds of dollars to attract patients when that money could be channeled towards improving patient care?
The truth is that healthcare organizations need some form of marketing in today’s world. There is nothing wrong with letting prospective patients know where they can find quality care. However, healthcare managers must ensure that all marketing practices are ethical and compliant with the advertising guidelines set by the medical board. For instance, displaying testimonials may be in violation of marketing guidelines. It is key that healthcare organizations prove their value through expertise and skill, not by disparaging other providers.
Benefits of managerial ethics to healthcare organizations
Healthcare managers must utilize a strong ethical framework because lives are at stake. Below are a few examples of why ethics are essential to healthcare organizations:
The reputation of healthcare organizations
The reputation of any healthcare organization is closely tied to the behavior of people in managerial positions. When an organization has a good reputation, it can attract patients from all over. In addition, it can attract talented staff and investors, making it possible to provide even better care.
Avoiding legal consequences
There is an intersection between ethics and the law. For instance, an organization can be sued by a patient who believes their medical information was misused, so when managers in the healthcare sector act ethically, they are better able to avoid legal problems. This saves the organization time and money that would be spent on a lawsuit.
Trust must always be the backbone of healthcare. Patients and their families can only trust a particular healthcare organization if they know that the management makes decisions in their best interests. This goes a long way towards improving patient outcomes as patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans.
Above everything else, acting ethically is vital for the manager’s personal integrity. The manager has a responsibility to act appropriately, even under challenging circumstances. By doing so, they cement themselves as respected leaders in the healthcare industry, increasing their chances of advancing in their careers.
Barriers to ethical practices in healthcare
Sometimes, people in managerial positions in healthcare face challenges that make it hard for them to act ethically. Here are some of the common barriers:
Lack of training
Some healthcare executives lack comprehensive training in handling complex ethical dilemmas. This is why people in healthcare management need to look for the best healthcare MBA programs online. A healthcare MBA program will equip them with the prerequisite knowledge and critical thinking skills to make tough decisions.
Healthcare executives might have conflicting values with their peers or their subordinates. This could lead to tension when attempting to act ethically. For instance, one executive might feel as if buying better equipment is better than hiring more nurses. Although both thought processes are valid, disagreements can arise.
Many things in healthcare would be easier if resources were always abundant, but this is simply not the case. Healthcare executives must regularly make difficult choices in managing the few resources available. For instance, when a healthcare facility is understaffed, the manager might ask nurses to prioritize mandatory procedures, such as injections and medications, while foregoing care such as providing emotional support to patients.
Legal and regulatory constraints
Some legal and regulatory requirements don’t align with ethical principles. This makes it hard for healthcare managers to make ethical decisions without finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. For instance, insurance reimbursement policies may prioritize cost-saving measures over patient’s welfare.
Another typical instance is end-of-life care. Ethical principles advocate for patient autonomy, meaning that patients should be allowed to make informed decisions about their end-of-life care. However, the law may limit autonomy by prohibiting assisted suicide. This leaves healthcare managers in a dilemma. Other examples include the duty to report, informed consent and confidentiality.
Bias and discrimination
Unfortunately, some executives in the healthcare sector have biased and discriminatory attitudes that make it hard for them to act ethically. For instance, some managers may hold gender or age biases that affect how they evaluate and promote employees. They might also have discriminatory attitudes towards patients. These attitudes can create a toxic work environment, leading to poor quality of services. It is essential for healthcare managers to actively address any biases or discriminatory attitudes towards employees and patients.
Lack of support
Executives need support from other stakeholders when it comes to making ethical decisions. When support is lacking, they may experience feelings such as anxiety and burnout, leading to them compromising their ethical principles. Lack of support can also lead to managers hesitating to speak out about ethical issues for fear of retaliation from other stakeholders. When issues go unaddressed, the quality of healthcare falls.
Additionally, some organizations don’t have a culture that promotes ethical practices. For instance, some healthcare organizations prioritize making money over the patient’s wellbeing. This makes it hard for managers to act ethically for fear that they won’t satisfy upper management as far as numbers go. Other organizations fail to provide adequate training to their managers, which leads to managers lacking the knowledge to successfully navigate ethical issues in the industry.
The role of leadership in promoting ethical behavior
Leaders in the healthcare sector play a vital role in promoting ethical practices. Their decisions trickle down to all employees, thus impacting patient care. The first thing healthcare leaders need to do is to set good examples. They should embody ethical behavior and decision-making for junior employees to follow. For instance, if they encourage employees to communicate effectively, then they too should be effective communicators to build strong teams.
Leaders should also provide education on ethical behavior. This way, employees know what is expected of them in the workplace. Most importantly, leaders must create a culture of accountability in healthcare organizations. This doesn’t just mean addressing unethical behavior but should include rewarding ethical behavior as well.
Always promote patient-centered care
It can be hard to navigate ethical dilemmas in healthcare – not just for managers but for other healthcare providers too. Taking a patient-centered approach to every situation is an excellent way to move past difficult situations. Patient-centered care involves listening to patients and involving them in their care. Leaders must also promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace to ensure everyone enthusiastically does their part to provide quality healthcare.