USC Gould Lecturer in Law Jay Anstine recently released the book “Navigating the Politics of Healthcare: A Compliance Officer’s Guide to Communication, Relationships, and Gaining Buy-in” aimed at helping new compliance officers improve their ability to communicate effectively with health care leaders.
In this Q&A, we discuss his new book and why soft skills – essential skills that help employees to adapt to any workplace – are so important for individuals working in compliance roles.
What course do you teach at USC Gould School of Law?
Law 574-Health Care Compliance
The course explores the key areas of risk for health care organizations generally as well as unique risk areas for specific types of health care companies. The course will prepare students to work as a compliance professional in a health care organization by enabling them to compose policies and procedures, spot problems, develop plans to address compliance challenges and respond to government investigations. This course also delves into the traits of a compliance program that make it effective.
Can you tell us about your professional background?
I am a health care lawyer that specializes in health care compliance. I’ve worked in health care for almost 25 years on the provider and payer side of the market. I consult with clinicians and health care leaders about compliance program requirements as well as federal, state and local regulations impacting health care delivery in the United States.
What inspired you to write a book specifically focused on soft skills for compliance professionals?
To me, the most challenging part of compliance work is managing the business relationship. It’s also the part of the job I’ve found the most mentally stimulating. For that reason, I started speaking at local and national conferences about ten years ago on a lot of communication-related topics. After presenting, I would have chief compliance officers coming up to me telling me the information was so needed for folks just starting out. I had a personal goal to write a book dating back to my college days, so it eventually dawned on me that I already had a start to several chapters of a book.
How would you define soft skills? How do you incorporate lessons from your book in class?
I would define it largely as communication skills – the ability to interact with others professionally in a manner that is respectful but effective. We have several assignments in our course that allow for role playing where we place the students as a character (e.g., CEO, physician, compliance officer, nurse). Each student then has a particular point-of-view that we draw out in the discussion assignment and the live session, so, I’ll incorporate lessons from the book that way.
Also, we have some written assignments which test the student’s ability to communicate complex topics clearly to an audience that doesn’t have a compliance background. This helps test the student’s ability to recognize and account for a knowledge gap with their audience, which is something I have to do in the field nearly on a daily basis.
In your opinion, why are soft skills important for individuals working in compliance roles?
Compliance officers have some perception issues to overcome, which isn’t their fault, it’s just an unfortunate byproduct of the job title. Before you utter your first words to a health care leader or physician, they will see you as a grown-up version of a hall monitor. So being able to develop strong relationships of trust is a must if you want them to proactively report concerns, and that’s where knowing how to communicate and read a room helps.
What advice do you have for legal master’s degree students and aspiring compliance professionals who are looking to excel in their careers?
I would say take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Without question, compliance work is serious business. The work is important to patient care and taxpayer funded health care programs. Simply put, the work requires that it be taken seriously. But that doesn’t mean the compliance officer has to be a serious person…well, not all the time anyway. Taking your work seriously means you’re passionate about your work. Not taking yourself too seriously means being able to laugh at yourself at times, and not beat yourself up when you make a mistake. If you are passionate about how you approach your work, you’ll have the capital in the eyes of others to make an occasional mistake. Taking this approach I think adds a human element to how others view compliance work.