Why whistleblowing is important in healthcare

Whistleblowing in healthcare illustration

January 10, 2023

Even though whistleblowing is important in all industries and sectors, health care is an industry where it is particularly important that everything goes right and that all regulations are followed. In addition to leading to a bad working situation, violations of existing rules and laws can directly harm patients or, in the worst case, lead to death.

In this blog post, we take a closer look at what whistleblowing actually means, especially in healthcare. As well as the types of problems that can be avoided and why it is so essential to have whistleblowers and safe routines for whistleblowing in healthcare.

What is meant by whistleblowing in healthcare?

The term “whistleblower” refers to anyone who reports evidence or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, such as criminal activity, healthcare fraud, risk to patient safety or corruption. Anyone working in healthcare, past or present, who has evidence or suspicions of fraud or wrongdoing can be a whistleblower.

Whistleblowing can help prevent several issues in healthcare, such as:

  • Unsafe patient care
  • Manipulation of research results and/or studies
  • Failure to properly protect patients
  • Improper dispensing of medications.
  • Various types of financial fraud and/or forgery
  • Unsafe/unsafe workplaces
  • Unethical ways to bill for healthcare
  • False diagnoses and unnecessary or expensive treatments

Also read: 6 benefits of whistleblowing

Why is whistleblowing so important in healthcare?

According to their professional code of conduct, people who work in health and care have an obligation to put their patients first. If something, such as an unproven method or similar could harm patients, there is an obligation to do something about it.

Also read: How to prevent misconduct in the workplace

Whistleblowing is basically an early warning feature that allows errors to be fixed before they cause serious damage. In health care, it does not necessarily have to refer to daily operations, but it can involve manipulating the results of ongoing research studies for personal gain. An example of this was what happened between Dr. Nancy Olivieri and Apotex in 1998.

Another well-known example of whistleblowing in healthcare is the Swedish well-publicised case of the “star surgeon” Paolo Macchiarini, who was discovered precisely through whistleblowing. Whistleblowers also reported being ostracised after reporting, which speaks to the importance of safe, anonymous and secure whistleblowing features.

Mistakes that would be seen as “small” in other areas can have major effects for those involved when it comes to healthcare. Patients can be harmed by doctors' mistakes, and for this reason, it is particularly important that errors in healthcare are properly reported.

How whistleblowing processes and whistleblowing functions can look in healthcare

If you have a complaint that counts as a whistleblowing case, you should normally take it up “locally”, i.e., by talking to your immediate manager or a senior manager in your organization, for example. If you've tried it, and it doesn't work or have an effect, or if you'd rather talk to someone outside the situation, there are often other, sometimes statutory, options. For example, you can report directly to the organization's possible whistleblowing solution (such as Visslan), or choose to report externally to, for example, the Inspectorate for Care and Care's whistleblowing function.

Also read: Why internal whistleblowing is superior

By allowing anonymous reporting in whistleblowing, which means that nobody needs to know who the whistleblower is, increase the security of the whistleblower and the chance that issues are actually reported. Especially in healthcare, it can be considered particularly important to offer anonymous whistleblowing.

To make a valid complaint about whistleblowing, you must have a genuine concern for the public good and be honest to the best of your knowledge. You don't need hard evidence to back up your concerns, but any evidence you have is helpful. You should never investigate the problem on your own, as this can give the person involved the opportunity to cover their tracks.

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