Several years into her tenure at Kentucky-headquartered medical provider Kindred Healthcare, Meredith Booth has realized that not everyone derives the same joy from compliance that she does. However, as the organization’s chief privacy officer and division vice president of compliance, Booth has made it her mission to change her colleagues’ perception.
“I’m not trying to make their lives harder,” Booth says with a laugh. “My goal is to make privacy—and compliance overall—a little bit more human and to let everybody else in the organization know that we’re here as a resource. We want to help answer questions and be that sounding board if they have any uncertainty about something.”
For Booth, employee education goes hand in hand with the effective protection of private information—whether that of Kindred’s patients or its employees. By instilling the importance of privacy and compliance in individuals across the organization, Booth has facilitated the adoption of a more proactive attitude toward both issues. Furthermore, she has built a foundation ready to withstand the challenges of the digital era, all while propelling Kindred and its patients toward a brighter future.
When she first arrived at Kindred in 2016, Booth oversaw a hotline set up within the compliance department to receive tips about potential areas to investigate. “While it was an important part of the compliance program, it was only one part of it,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken on more responsibilities over time. Now, I really get to look at the big picture of our compliance program and see what we’re doing and whether we’re being effective.”
As the scope of her role broadened, Booth brought herself up to speed on previously unfamiliar topics. She delved into federal and state privacy regulations and gained a stronger appreciation for the auditing process. She then began applying her increased knowledge base to enhance Kindred’s compliance program and overall operations.
“My thought has always been to look at what we have to see what’s working and where we can improve,” Booth says. “We do strive for best practice, and we do want to be as secure of an organization as we can be. We want to make sure that our patients feel like their information is going to be secure when they come to us and that our employees understand their information is afforded the same protection.”
Booth closely monitors trends within Kindred and in the industry at large so that she can keep employees up-to-date. She puts together training units and educational pieces around emerging issues throughout the year as a supplement to the annual compliance training that all Kindred employees receive. “Privacy is one of those fields that until someone gets a feel for it, they might not understand why it’s so vital. We want our employees to understand the ‘why’ behind everything—why it is so important that we protect private information,” she explains.
Beyond teaching employees about privacy and compliance, Booth emphasizes clear and efficient communication. “As soon as a patient says that they would like a copy of their medical record, we need to know,” she says. “The goal is always to provide exemplary patient care and an exemplary patient experience. If a patient has had great bedside care but they never hear anything about this request, it will impact their overall opinion of Kindred.”
“My goal is to make privacy—and compliance overall—a little bit more human and to let everybody else in the organization know that we’re here as a resource.”
With electronic medical records and digital healthcare services becoming more common, Booth believes that timely responses to patient requests are more critical than ever. At the same time, increased digitization at Kindred has presented new challenges for her department, as have new government regulations pertaining to digital privacy.
“We’re always trying to figure out how we can respond to changes and how we can anticipate the requests that are going to come as a result,” she elaborates. “We partner a lot with our security department to find out what they’re seeing as far as cyberthreats. Then we look at how we can protect everyone without locking the system so much that employees can’t use it.”
Booth has encouraged implementing multifactor and single sign-on authentication and similar strategies to bolster various system/application security without overburdening Kindred employees. She also turns to trusted external parties, such as healthcare data and technology company ProviderTrust, to help navigate the ever-shifting industry and regulatory landscape.
“ProviderTrust has been a great partner from the beginning,” she confirms, highlighting the company’s assistance with licensure and credentialing matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. “If they heard about a different waiver or a state coming out with a change in their requirements, they were really helpful in passing on the information. And if we saw something come up on our end, we could fact-check with them to see if we had missed anything.”
“Meredith has an unwavering commitment to ensuring only the most qualified employees are caring for Kindred’s patients, which includes partnering with ProviderTrust,” says Donna Thiel, chief compliance officer at ProviderTrust. “Immediate notification of any employee who has a licensure issue or is excluded by a state or federal governing body allows Meredith to take immediate action to protect Kindred’s patients.”
With organizational partners and employees alike doing their part to aid in Kindred’s compliance efforts, Booth hopes to grow even more adept at preempting issues before they arise. Likewise, she seeks to continue creating a seamless patient experience by matching the caliber of Kindred’s medical care with a prompt and respectful completion of record requests.
“If we are the last impression that someone has of Kindred, we want it to be a good one,” Booth emphasizes. “We want patients to understand that compliance/privacy is here to protect their information, but we are also here to provide it to them as soon as they request it.”