So many duties, responsibilities, and characteristics fall under the umbrella of things that board directors should embody. Overall, the word that encapsulates the responsibilities of board directors is governance. Because governance runs like a vein through every decision the board makes, it’s vital that every board director understands what governance is and what constitutes good governance.
The board only exists while it is in session. When it speaks, it speaks with one voice. With every board director that joins and leaves the board, the dynamics change. Regardless of who fills the seats in the boardroom, the board may only get 24 hours of total time together. That means that they need to work efficiently and use their time wisely.
Effective governance is a strong foundation that strongly supports healthcare board members. Good governance sets the course for healthy and respectful debates about tough topics. When a board works well together, they are synergistic and produce good outcomes. Healthcare boards must be aware of a large group of stakeholders and that requires them to be skilled at being integrative. As significant service providers within the community, healthcare boards help to preserve their community’s assets. Despite the complexity and challenges of serving on a healthcare board, it’s a position that easily brings enjoyment and personal rewards with it.
In a nutshell, we can break down the board’s role into three broad categories. They’re responsible for establishing policies, making strategic decisions, and overseeing organizational activity. No matter what skills, talents, and expertise an individual brings to their board, there’s always room for improvement.
The Role of Policymaking
Good policies support decision-making and oversight. They help to differentiate the responsibilities among the board, management, and staff. Good policies make it possible to eliminate having the same items on the agenda meeting after meeting. Policies create clarity and once they’ve been written and passed, the board can delegate them to management to be implemented.
One of the board’s most important policies is the Code of Ethics. This policy outlines what they will and won’t tolerate. As actions supersede words, healthcare board directors should heed their behavior in their professional and personal lives.
With the rapid pace of corporate changes, it’s also useful for boards to review their policies every year to make sure they’re still valid and continually updated.
The Role of Decision-Making
The decision-making role involves the board as they make choices related to the healthcare organization’s mission, vision, and strategies. Boards are responsible for significant and strategic decisions regardless of the size of the healthcare provider. With all the changes regarding healthcare regulations and insurance, restructuring through mergers has become commonplace.
Large enterprises often have large numbers of boards and may also have a main board. It’s vital that they’re all on the same page and that they’re all working together for the good of the enterprise and the people it serves.
The Role of Oversight
The board of directors is legally responsible for everything that happens with a healthcare organization. Their role doesn’t extend to directly managing any part of the enterprise. As an example, the board is responsible for overseeing the overall quality of care within the establishments. They put that into practice by setting the tone that the organization is committed to quality, establishing policies related to quality, and ensuring that management has all the proper mechanisms in place to provide the assurance of quality within the scope of the organization. Boards should also have plans in place to monitor implementation of policies.
Another way they can accomplish quality assurance is to delegate important tasks to committees and ensure that all parties have the proper credentials. Because of the important role that committees play in the governance process, it’s valuable for boards to periodically review the structure and functions of the committees and clarify what roles the committees play.
In addition to providing strong oversight, healthcare boards need to continually build community relationships. Another of their most important duties is to identify, recruit, appoint, and monitor the CEO. If the CEO fails to perform his or her intended duties, the board has the power to fire the individual and must find a replacement.
While the CEO and the senior executives develop the strategic plan, the board bears the responsibility to accept the plan or request modifications to it. Many considerations go into solidifying the final strategic plan including evaluating the competition and the ever-changing world of healthcare. Of vital importance is for the board to ensure that the strategic plan aligns with the organization’s vision, mission, values, and goals.
One of the newer responsibilities that boards must fulfill is with regard to compliance. Board directors that fail to comply with government regulations risk fines and possibly even jail time.
Respect is an essential quality in all board directors, and they must apply it in many facets including their relationships with other board directors, management, the clinicians, the employees, and for the organization. When board directors are antagonistic, their behavior is distracting, unproductive, and creates toxicity throughout the environment that can become contagious. In addition to having and showing respect, board directors need to have a degree of openness and complete confidentiality.
Financial oversight is a familiar job that boards usually do well. Boards must be sure that the organization has good internal financial controls and that they invest funds wisely. In their role as policymakers, boards need to consider how they manage their cash flow, banking processes, and contracts and also set policies related to their budgets.
In protecting their own assets, healthcare boards are also protecting their community’s assets.
Oversight of the quality area often involves utilization and risk management in addition to continuous quality improvement. In some ways, healthcare boards have a larger responsibility for community-based relationships than other industries, especially if they are nonprofits where stakeholders may include consumers, business leaders, elected officials, payers, and other collaborators. Healthcare organizations have the ability to offer their community a better quality of life.
Healthcare board members do their best when they understand their roles and responsibilities and have the right tools to assist them such as a BoardEffect board management system. By taking a modern approach to governance, healthcare board members can meet the challenges of the future and keep their enterprises sustainable for the long-term.