Ethics in Case Management

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The importance of staying up to date on the latest ethical standards

When Kim Kardashian gave birth at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, it was big news, of course. And when George Clooney got into a motorcycle accident and needed treatment at a local hospital in New Jersey, it was also big news.

Often when a celebrity is hospitalized, there’s a temptation among some hospital workers to leak the news, as unscrupulous news organizations are likely to offer cash or other benefits in exchange for such juicy news tips.

For this reason, all medical professionals, case managers and social workers among them, need to meet the highest ethical standards. But how do hospital administrators ensure case managers are even aware of the need to meet high standards in ethics, let alone offereducation on how to meet those standards?

Importance of Ethics Awareness

One answer is workforce development through online education. Giving case managers and social workers access to courses online helps these critical staff members to get and stay up to date on the latest clinical developments and standards in a changing healthcare environment.

In an increasingly cost-conscious environment, in which ethical standards have taken on heightened importance, case managers must protect the public’s interest. For many reasons, the importance of solid professional ethics cannot be overstated. When hospitals are sued for breaches of ethics, such as in the healthcare privacy cases of Clooney and Kardashian cited above, case managers can make a compelling case for online education coursework in ethics. Certainly, it is critical for case managers to know what is at stake regarding the ethical principles and legal considerations affecting their profession.

Online Education Benefits

In many hospitals and health systems nationwide, workforce development through online education of case managers and social workers elevates the core competencies of the case management team. This education results in measureable organizational performance improvements in many areas. For this reason, care management directors routinely assign courses to steer their teams to meet their organizations’ priorities.

Another advantage of online education is cost. Online coursework is generally less expensive than sending staff members to conferences. One hospital assigned several ethics courses to 100 employees for less than $20 a student.

Also, such courses are convenient and thus easy to complete because the work is done online, meaning staff can participate at home, at work or in any coffee shop with Wi-Fi.

Educational Standards

Once a hospital makes the coursework available, administrators must ensure courses meet the highest educational standards. One way is to embed the principles, rules and standards endorsed by the Commission for Case Manager Certification.The first and largest nationally accredited organization that certifies professional case managers in the United States, the commission offers its Certified Case Manager (CCM) credential, which is highly valued throughout the health care system.

By embedding the Commission’s Code of Professional Conduct into courses, online educators ensure all case managers and other professionals, such as social workers who serve as case managers and those seeking continuing medical education, meet rigorous certification standards that promote quality practice, the highest ethical values and behavior and evidence-based medicine.

Case managers and social workers need the knowledge they can get from courses that embed these standards if they are to reach new levels of excellence in various practice settings. The directors of case management, who require staff members to get continuing education from workforce development companies that embed Commission standards, find that case managers and social workers perform better. They also find these case managers and social workers improve care, increase patient satisfaction and cut costs.

In recent years, hospitals, health systems, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies and hospice care providers have seen a significant increases in demand for case management professionals. These facilities want to ensure that all case managers and social workers deliver high-quality, high-value, patient-centered care that meets the facilities’ highest ethical standards.

Online coursework also is instrumental in helping case managers and social workers improve their own effectiveness and efficiency in the workplace and patient relationships, boost claims reimbursement and control costs.

Not only should courses be designed to improve these areas but courses also should allow case managers and social workers to optimize resource management across all settings, whether in hospitals, health systems, home care, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes or hospice care.

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About Author

Ellen Fink-Samnick MSW, ACSW, LCSW, CCM, CRP

Co-author of COLLABORATE for Professional Case Management and director of social work education for Athena Forum.

Thomas Rasmussen
Thomas Rasmussen

CEO and publisher of Athena Forum, which produces online continuing education courses for case managers, social workers and other healthcare professionals, in Rockville, Md.

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