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Is your hotline 'hot?' Approaches to improving and promoting your compliance hotline

J. Veronica Xu ( is the Chief Compliance Officer for Saber Healthcare Group headquartered in Cleveland, OH.

“Why is it called a ‘hotline?’ Is your hotline ‘hot?’” I was recently asked by a nine-year-old language enthusiast. Although I was not completely speechless, there was a slight delay in my response because his questions prompted me to ponder. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “hot” means “having a relatively high temperature,” “currently popular or in demand,” “unusually lucky or favorable,” and “very good,” among other things. Simply put, it can be interpreted as “popular, attractive, appealing, and inviting.” Despite the fact that “hotline” is actually defined by Merriam-Webster as “a direct telephone line in constant operational readiness so as to facilitate immediate communication” and “a usually toll-free telephone service available to the public for some specific purpose,” I can’t help thinking that my compliance hotline should be “hot”—at least hopefully. Joking aside, I started to think further: How can we make our hotline more popular and friendly?

Regardless of our roles and capacities (e.g., a consumer, employee, agent, contractor), we deal with various parties (e.g., merchants, providers, coworkers, institutions) on a regular basis. If you just had a negative customer service experience, what would you do? If you witnessed an employee’s unethical behavior or shady practices, how would you like to rectify the situation? What would cause you to call the compliance hotline? Similarly, in a healthcare setting, what would a patient, a family, or an employee do when they spot suspicious or questionable conduct? We want them to call the compliance hotline. It is a no-brainer that most compliance professionals would suggest. As is widely known in the healthcare compliance field, there are countless risk factors in our business operations, such as billing, quality of care, and patient privacy, to name a few. The hotline, by its inherent design, is meant to help identify issues and risk areas, thereby detecting wrongdoing early and preventing further damages and losses to organizations and public programs.

In my opinion, as an integral component of a compliance program, the compliance hotline (also sometimes referred to as the disclosure program) is a triangular framework that consists of three basic elements: (1) an information intake system, (2) reporters, and (3) internal investigators, all of which are closely correlated and ultimately affecting the overall success of the hotline.

Title 1: Elements of the compliance hotline

This article is intended to share some practical tips to help you and your teams improve, promote, and use your disclosure program as part of your effort to strength your compliance program.

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