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When looking for an expert source on what good leadership is, look no further than every graduate school management program in the nation, or any of the thousands of strategic consulting companies in the free world.

Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone knows that truth and most are right in some shape, form or fashion.

integrityNot to be negative, but today I want to focus on what good leadership is not.

Good leaders do not play fast and loose with the Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement system, such as engaging in treatment of faked injuries, or any number of other fraudulent billing schemes including paying commissions for patient admissions.

I am saddened that some healthcare executives think that meeting corporate-mandated revenue and profit targets is an acceptable excuse to do that which the vast majority know is wrong and more than likely illegal, their feeble defense about the complexity of the reimbursement regulations to the contrary.

As a CFO recently said, “If the scenario has been on Law & Order, it is probably illegal and will involve some jail time.”

When physicians engage in such shameful scams it is even more confounding.  Why would someone who invested so much, worked so hard, endured so many incredible sacrifices and verbal abuse, risk everything trying to scam Medicare, Medicaid or even  commercial insurance companies to pad their incomes?  How does a healthcare professional get to the mental state where this becomes OK?

I am also amazed by executives who turn a blind eye to problems with physicians who engage in questionable patient care activities by ignoring abusive behavior against employees or by turning a blind eye to serious issues of impairment that threaten patients because they do not want to upset their financial apple cart.  There will always be executives who can conjure up an excuse not to do the right thing, especially if there are consequences for their continued employment or the size of their bonus.

We will solve this problem the same way we will make progress on patient safety issues — by having CEOs and other leaders make it personal, not by just talking about integrity in the annual report or during the initial employment interview but as an everyday part of the values of the organization.  Unfortunately, in far too many companies integrity is not a constant front-and-center values issue.  It is implied but rarely discussed.  Sadly, you can make a direct connection between the lack of emphasis on integrity with the issue of patient safety.

We can do better.  Our communities, our patients deserve better.