The Importance of Trust

Charles Whipple was drawn to healthcare early on. Today, from a legal perspective, he works to support Hallmark Health in myriad ways, taking it to a level of comfort that benefits everyone—especially the patients.

Charles Whipple, Executive VP & Chief Legal Officer, Hallmark Health System
Charles Whipple, Executive VP & Chief Legal Officer, Hallmark Health System

My interest in healthcare started at a pretty early age. As a child, I was a chronic asthmatic and spent a lot of time in hospitals as a kid. I thought it was pretty fascinating. At the same time, I had a lot of interest in the law; I’m a child of the ’80s, so I used to stay up late to watch LA Law.

Growing up, I played three sports a year, all the way through high school, despite my asthma. I still play basketball, do some running, some marathons, and triathlons. I could pretty much do whatever I wanted because of the medical care I received and the breathing exercises I was taught. So what’s great about my job is it allows me to support those who have done so much for me.

Hallmark Health System stands out among health- service providers because it is a community-based entity. It is our privilege to take care of our friends, families, and neighbors. That’s incredibly satisfying to all our employees because they’re able to make a positive impact in their neighbors’ and friends’ lives by providing access to quality healthcare right where they live. As a healthcare provider just north of Boston, we have some the world’s most well-known hospitals and health systems only a few miles away, yet we provide an exceptional level of care parallel in quality in a much more personal way—more so than in a larger institution.

The most satisfying part of my job is the aspect of helping the many talented providers who are actually delivering the care in our system. I take care of the underlying legal and compliance matters that come to the surface for them occasionally so that it doesn’t get in the way of them focusing on delivering quality care. For example, I occasionally get a call at three in the morning from a physician in an emergency situation with questions about who can actually make decisions for a patient who is compromised but without clear directives in place, but a number of family members are involved—such as a second spouse and children from the spouse of the first marriage—all having differing opinions.

“We have some the world’s most well-known hospitals and health systems only a few miles away, yet we provide an exceptional level of care parallel in quality in a much more personal way.”

Trust is important. I work hard to have strong, positive relationships with the physicians and nurses so that they are comfortable contacting me with their questions and won’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call. I get calls from our physicians saying, “Sorry, this is a stupid question—” and they’re happy to have someone to bounce that idea or question off of.

We work in a highly regulated field, and a major area of responsibility is that we must constantly review all our policies and procedures. Our policies and procedures are in place to ensure we have consistency in the level of quality and services, as well as to continuously improve the delivery of care.

We are not a large legal department, and there are times when we work with outside counsel to help us in doing our job. At any given time, we asses our workload, especially if something specific is coming up, and say, “OK, do we have enough resources [in-house], or are we going to need a particular resource or skill set from an outside firm?” When it comes time to make those outside selections, I hire individual lawyers; I don’t hire law firms. If you’re an expert in your field and you know what you’re doing—I don’t care if it’s a regional or national law firm or a small boutique law firm—you’re the one with the expertise in the area that I need.

Another great thing about our organization is the community work we do in addition to providing medical care. For example, we identified that food insecurity was an issue within some of our communities, so we partner with the Greater Boston Food Bank and run a mobile market free to families that benefit from its services. These and other programs make it so very rewarding—knowing that you’re working for an organization that does so much good. 

It is what drives me each day. I chose early in my career to do healthcare law because you can make an impact on the lives of people we care for. And that’s really the benefit that comes out of it.