Healthcare-Specific Investigation FAQs
Before you dive into a healthcare investigation, it’s imperative that you take a step back and consider the following:
Is a formal investigation necessary or are there other ways to triage the complaint? – Not every complaint requires a formal investigation. Some complaints are better characterized as concerns which can be addressed informally such as through facilitated discussions. Find out more about investigation triage.
Should you involve an external investigator – as with many investigations, one of the first considerations ought to be whether an effective, impartial, and defensible investigation can be conducted internally, or whether the organization needs to look outside. This can be a difficult decision as HR professionals are typically more than capable of properly investigating complaints; that said, there are several circumstances in which it is highly recommended that HR looks to an outside firm with industry experience. Learn more…
Are there reporting requirements to professional regulatory bodies? – in most Provinces, there is a requirement to report disciplinary action against members of regulated professions. An allegation may trigger a duty to notify a regulator, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons and College of Registered Nurses of Ontario or Alberta.
Are there disclosure requirements? For example, in Alberta, Alberta Health Services Policy No. 1163-01, addresses Public Information Disclosure Act (“PIDA”) requirements respecting incidences of wrongdoing and reprisal. Similar policies and legislation govern healthcare institutions in Ontario and British Columbia.
Is a party or potential party to the investigation a unionized employee? – Aside from physicians, employees in healthcare organizations are unionized. These investigations raise a host of other issues and considerations, not the least of which is the Collective Agreement governing the employee(s). You should involve internal or external legal counsel at this stage to ensure compliance with the Collective Agreement, internal healthcare policy and procedure, and governing legislation; applicable legislation may include specific rules under Occupational Health & Safety legislation.
Does the investigation involve patients or patient safety? – If a patient(s) is involved whether as a complainant or witness, consider the following: patient confidentiality, privacy, and comfort. This may seem obvious but certain investigations may require a review of the patients charting and other sensitive information; the patient may be seriously ill and require certain accommodations to participate in the investigation and may wish to avoid it altogether. Whichever the case, the investigator should anticipate these potential issues by having an appropriate strategy in place before starting the investigation.
- What evidence should be gathered and where can it be found? – As with most investigations, the sources of relevant information depend on the issue being investigated, but potential sources may include, patient medical charts which are now digital in most Provinces; system login information for parties to the investigation; Closed-Camera television recordings; email and text correspondence. As a cautionary note, the workplace investigator will likely not have authority to obtain patient or health system records and may have to coordinate with the regulatory body in order to gain access to these records. Accordingly, the investigator should weigh the costs and benefits associated with obtaining these confidential records.
At Method, we specialize in healthcare investigations. We understand the law, policy, and procedure that is unique to healthcare institutions. If your organization needs advice, third-party neutral investigative services, or training, please do not hesitate to contact us today.