What is whistleblowing?

An individual who discloses infor¬≠ma¬≠tion, either inter¬≠nally (e.g., manager, compli¬≠ance officer, hotline) or exter¬≠nally (e.g., regula¬≠tory agencies, media, lawmakers, watch dog organi¬≠za¬≠tions) that he/‚Äčshe reason¬≠ably believes evidences a viola¬≠tion of a law, rule or regula¬≠tion, gross misman¬≠age¬≠ment, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or a substan¬≠tial and specific danger to public health or safety.

A whistle­blower is

  • Often a current/‚Äčformer worker with credible infor¬≠ma¬≠tion about wrongdoing/‚Äčillegality witnessed on the job.
  • Someone who discloses issues that require change to comply with law or to protect public interest.

Best practices for healthcare organizations

Report suspected viola­tions or wrong­doing internally

  • Contact the Compli¬≠ance Office, the safety/‚Äčcompliance hotline, or use chain of command. This is consis¬≠tent with advice provided by the Office of Inspector General, Depart¬≠ment of Justice, and U.S. Sentencing Commission.
  • Seek to resolve issues inter¬≠nally before involving a govern¬≠ment agency to over see the process. 
  • Support an organi¬≠za¬≠tional culture of trans¬≠parency and contin¬≠uous improve¬≠ment. Workers have an impor¬≠tant role in ensuring safe/‚Äčquality care and a duty to report suspected wrongdoing/‚Äčviola¬≠tions.
  • EXCEP¬≠TION: Securi¬≠ties law viola¬≠tions‚ÄČ‚ÄĒ‚ÄČAnti-Retal¬≠i¬≠a¬≠tion Protec¬≠tions only extend to workers who have reported securi¬≠ties law viola¬≠tions exter¬≠nally to the Securi¬≠ties and Exchange Commis¬≠sion (SEC).

Be alert for practices/‚Äčdocuments appearing to block workers from reporting viola¬≠tions externally 

  • Organi¬≠za¬≠tional Compliance/‚ÄčHuman Resources documents should not limit the worker‚Äôs ability to: 
  • File charges/‚Äčcomplaints with any federal, state, or local govern¬≠mental agency or commission.
  • Limit the worker‚Äôs right to commu¬≠ni¬≠cate with any govern¬≠ment agency or partic¬≠i¬≠pate in any inves¬≠ti¬≠ga¬≠tion or proceeding that such an agency may conduct.
  • A health¬≠care organization‚Äôs code of conduct, compli¬≠ance policies and compli¬≠ance training should promote internal commu¬≠ni¬≠ca¬≠tion and specify that workers have a duty and right to report wrong¬≠doing and legal viola¬≠tions (without retri¬≠bu¬≠tion or retaliation).

Considerations for healthcare whistleblowing

If an illegal or uneth­ical practice is identi­fied, reserve judgment until adequate documen­ta­tion is collected

  • Individual(s) engaged in uneth¬≠ical or illegal conduct will not welcome inquiry into their practice.
  • Collect data to substan¬≠tiate the claim; remember that you are not protected from retal¬≠i¬≠a¬≠tion in a whistle-blower situa¬≠tion until you blow the whistle.
  • Blowing the whistle means that you report your concern(s) to the national and/‚Äčor state agency respon¬≠sible for regula¬≠tion of the organi¬≠za¬≠tion for which you work; criminal activity includes reports to law enforce¬≠ment agencies.
  • Reporting recom¬≠men¬≠da¬≠tions: put complaint(s) in writing; document objec¬≠tively; retain documen¬≠ta¬≠tion of events, including all inter¬≠ac¬≠tions related to the whistle-blowing situation.

Before you report

  • Seek counsel of someone you trust outside of the situa¬≠tion to provide an objec¬≠tive perspective.
  • Consult with WSNA or legal counsel, if possible, before acting to deter¬≠mine how best to document/‚Äčcommunicate concern(s).

Whistleblowing is a serious and often complex matter. Make sure that you know the facts before acting.

Washington State Depart¬≠ment of Health (WA DOH)

Concerning

  • Health profes¬≠sional complaints.
  • Health facility complaints.

Contact infor­ma­tion

https://‚Äčwww‚Äč.doh‚Äč.wa‚Äč.gov/‚ÄčL‚Äči‚Äčc‚Äče‚Äčn‚Äčs‚Äče‚Äčs‚ÄčP‚Äče‚Äčr‚Äčm‚Äči‚Äčt‚Äčs‚Äča‚Äčn‚Äčd‚ÄčC‚Äče‚Äčr‚Äčt‚Äči‚Äčf‚Äči‚Äčc‚Äča‚Äčt‚Äče‚Äčs‚Äč/‚ÄčF‚Äči‚Äčl‚Äče‚ÄčC‚Äčo‚Äčm‚Äčp‚Äčl‚Äča‚Äči‚Äčn‚Äčt‚ÄčA‚Äčb‚Äčo‚Äču‚Äčt‚ÄčP‚Äčr‚Äčo‚Äčv‚Äči‚Äčd‚Äče‚Äčr‚Äčo‚Äčr‚ÄčF‚Äča‚Äčc‚Äčility

Whistle­blower protections

RCW 43.70.075 ‚Äď A whistle¬≠blower who complains, in good faith, to the depart¬≠ment of health about the improper quality of care by a health care provider, or in a health care facility, as defined in *RCW 43.72.010, or who submits a notifi¬≠ca¬≠tion or report of an adverse event or an incident, in good faith, to the depart¬≠ment of health under RCW 70.56.020or to the indepen¬≠dent entity under RCW 70.56.040, shall remain confidential.


Washington State Depart­ment of Labor and Industries

Concerning

  • Worker in immediate danger.
  • Safety and health concerns (workplace).

Contact infor­ma­tion

Whistle­blower protections

RCW 51.48.025 ‚Äď An employee may not be discharged (or discrim¬≠i¬≠nated against) in retal¬≠i¬≠a¬≠tion for filing (or commu¬≠ni¬≠cating an intent to file) a workers‚Äô compen¬≠sa¬≠tion claim.


Washington State Medicaid Fraud Control Division

Concerning

  • Medicaid fraud, waste, abuse.
  • Resident abuse/‚Äčneglect in Medicaid funded nursing homes, adult family homes, boarding homes.

Contact infor­ma­tion

(360586‚ÄĎ8888

Office of Attorney General
Medicaid Fraud Control Division
PO Box 40114
Olympia, WA 98504

Whistle­blower protections

Refer to RCW 43.70.075 including RCW 4.24.500 and 4.24.520.


The Joint Commis­sion (TJC)

Concerning

  • Patient, staff, family safety concerns.

Contact infor­ma­tion

The Office of Quality and Patient Safety
The Joint Commis­sion
One Renais­sance Boule­vard
Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois 60181

Fax: (630792‚ÄĎ5636

Whistle­blower protections

Joint Commis­sion (and the National Committee for Quality Assur­ance) are private organi­za­tions and do not confer whistle­blower protections.