I’m Kate Dewhirst.

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Talking conflict on a FHT board

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Family health teams are interesting creations.  What are they?  Multi-disciplinary teams providing primary care services to communities across Ontario.

A new theme for family health teams is moving from physician-led boards to community or mixed governance and skills-based boards. One of the driving reasons for this change is to deal with potential conflicts of interest and to add a wider range of perspectives to these publicly-funded entities.

So how do you talk about “conflicts of interest” at your FHT board table? You undertake a 6-step conversation with your board.

I just covered this in my June session of Legal Issues for Family Health Teams webinar series.

First, you need to tell your board members about their duties and explain what it means to be a fiduciary.  SNORE.  Yep, you are going to have to keep everyone’s attention here. Talking about conflicts of interest can put people to sleep.  But, many new board members do not know what could be asked of them in their role. So it is important that you explain the range of decision making they could be involved in.  And then quickly move into step 2 – storytelling.

Second, you provide actual examples of conflicts of interest.  The key here is to talk about the obvious ones and also add examples of the subtle ones.  Everyone intuitively understands that it is a conflict of interest in a publicly-funded model to take money from patients in exchange for better or faster health care services. But, it is also important to talk about subtle conflicts such as how outside commitments can negatively impact on a board member’s ability to fulfill her duties.

Third, I like to ask board members to do a personal reflection exercise on all the “hats” they wear in their lives. By identifying their personal and professional connections and roles, they have a better sense of where conflicts can arise for them as board members of the FHT.

Fourth, it is often necessary to demystify a commonly held perspective of board members that they must “represent” certain professional or community interests on the board. Explain in concrete terms the duties of confidentiality and putting the interests of the FHT-first.

Fifth, get the board involved by asking them, “what are your ethical hmmmmmms?” By asking them to identify the scenarios and situations that they have wondered about, you stimulate conversation about conflicts of interest using slightly more accessible language. You’ll be surprised what has been worrying your board members.

Sixth, explain the steps to manage conflicts of interest and the possible consequences of not managing those conflicts properly. Not all conflicts are bad news.  Some can be easily managed. Yet, some are non-starters.  Talk about the process at your board meetings about how to proactively identify conflicts and how to respond to conflicts as they arise.

Contact me if you would like to test out my Legal Issues for Family Health Teams webinar series. You can take a free sample of the program to see if it would suit your needs. Warning: we have fun talking about the law.


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Team Privacy Training Events
October 16, October 24 and November 21

For Primary Care clinics, Children’s Aid and FHTs

Kate trains health professionals from many more primary care organizations how being privacy-respectful can improve therapeutic relationships. More details...

Speaking event October 23, 2019

Osgoode Professional Development – Mental health Certificate

Kate joins the faculty for this training event. More details...

Primary care webinars: Managing Incapacity & Consent to Treatment

Part of Kate’s monthly webinar series.

Our October webinar is about managing incapacity, and the November title is Consent to Treatment.
Full details of the 2020 webinar series and registration here.

Advanced Privacy Officer training
December 10, 2019

For experienced Privacy Officers within healthcare organisations.

This one day training course focuses on how to handle difficult privacy situations using real-life (but anonymized) case studies and role-play. Full details and registration here...

Privacy Officer training
January 20 & 27 and February 3,10 & 18, 2020

Kate is the program chair for the Osgoode Certificate in Privacy in Healthcare.

This program explores the range of privacy interests that must be protected in the day-to-day treatment of patients, the development of information systems and the creation of institutional policies. More details...

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October 2, November 6 and December 4

Free webinars - advance registration needed

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