The issue of professional ethics has always been important for the health care workers but with the recent changes in the society, this issue has become especially topical. Financial accountability and reporting is important for meeting the ethical standards within the health care organizations and protecting the patients from the financial burden and unnecessary services.
Planning, controlling, organizing, and decision-making are the four major elements of effective financial management though some researchers do not recognize organizing as a separate component. Still, proper organization is significant for the effectiveness of the whole project, and requires special attention of the financial managers.
The planning element presupposes identification of the main objectives of a particular project and selecting appropriate measures that need to be imposed for meeting them. The controlling element requires analysis of reports from all the divisions of the organization and evaluation of the existing state of affairs. On the organizing stage, the manager chooses the most effective ways for using the available resources.
The element of decision making presupposes deciding between various alternatives after analysis of possible consequences and evaluating the positive and negative sides of every option. Baker and Baker (2010) noted that “decision making actually occurs parallel to planning, organizing, and controlling. All types of decision making rely on information, and the primary tasks are analysis and evaluation” (p. 5).
The field of accounting is of crucial importance for organizing the financial information on a particular health care organization, for making the informed choices after the analysis of this data. Working on the external reports, the financial managers should consider the generally accepted accounting principles so that the processes in different organizations could be compared according to similar metrics.
These standards depend upon the type of a particular health care organization, and the majority of them is non-for-profit and does not pay income taxes though a number of for-profit organizations delivering health care services increased recently. “A common misunderstanding is that nonprofits are not allowed to make any money, when in fact they must generate more revenue than expenses to stay in business” (Barker, 2009, p. 210).
However, it is important to take measures for handling the conflict of interests and to protect patients from the financial burden, meeting the general financial ethical principles for health care organizations. It is important that the physicians should resist the temptation of providing the unnecessary services, disregarding their financial self-interest.
At the same time, the organizational ethics is even more important than the moral of an individual practitioner. Weber (2001) noted that “the issue here is not so much how the individual behaves as how the organization is managed” (p. 52). Meeting the generally acceptable ethical principles, health care organizations improve the quality of their services and protect patients from paying for unnecessary services.
The realities of present day hospital or clinical settings predetermine a number of challenges for nurses and physicians who face ethical dilemmas in their professional practice day by day. The issue of meeting the ethical standards is related not only to personal choices of health care workers and management of organizations but to the state of affairs in the sphere as well.
“In today’s changing practice environment, third parties have increasing control in the delivery and financing of care and in treatment decisions” (Povar et al., 2004, Ethics in practice). In other words, there are a number of additional factors which complicate the physician-patient interaction and may become a hindrance for considering the ethical principles while providing the health care services.
Thus, even focusing the health care plans on the patients’ interest and disrespecting their financial self-interests, practitioners have to handle the issues of financing their research projects. For example, pharmaceutical companies appear to be one of the most influential third parties.
Within the recent decades, the conflicts of interests of physicians and pharmaceutical companies have become widely spread. It is obvious that drug manufacturers are interested in increasing their revenues by selling more medicine. Still, physicians should remain focused on the patients’ interests and the quality of the health care services.
At the same time, the importance of cooperation with pharmaceutical companies should not be underestimated because of their support of the research projects. “The pharmaceutical industry spends approximately $ 12 billion annually on gifts and payments to physicians” (Studdert et al, 2004, “Financial conflicts of interest”).
The physicians’ accountability and procedures of financial reporting are of crucial importance for controlling the health care organizations. “The financial matters for which [providers are] (or could be) held accountable include the price of services, the efficiency with which they are provided, assurance that services billed for were delivered, and the overall financial performance of the [providers]” (Emanuel and Emanuel, 2004, What is accountability in health care?).
Despite the changing professional environment, the principles of professional ethics have to prevail and physicians have to avoid providing unnecessary services to their patients.
Effective management and financial reporting are important for meeting the ethical norms within the health care organizations and providing high-quality services.
Baker, J.J. & Baker, R.W. (2010). Health care finance. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Barker, A.M. (2009). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Emanuel, E.J. and Emanuel, L.L. (2004). “What is accountability in health care?” Annals of Internal Medicine. Retrieved from http://www.annals.org/content/124/2/229.full
Povar, G.J et al. (July, 2004). Ethics in practice: Managed care and the changing health care environment. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141 (2). Retrieved from http://www.annals.org/content/141/2/131.full
Studdert, D.M. (October, 2004). Financial conflict of interest in physicians’ relationships with the pharmaceutical industry – self-regulation in the shadow of federal prosecution. The New England Journal of Medicine, 351. Retrieved from http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMlim042229
Weber, L.J. (2001). Business ethics in healthcare: Beyond compliance. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.