Five years ago, faced with more complaints and open investigation files than could be reasonably managed, the Real Estate Council of Alberta began the process of change… Through complaints, investigations, outcomes, organizational structure and corporate culture, traditional approaches were reshaped to bring about more efficient, timely and transparent processes.

CLEAR’s 2015 Annual Educational Conference September, 17 – 19, 2015

It was this session, entitled “Complaints, Investigations, and Outcomes: A New Perspective”, that caught my eye as I scanned CLEAR’s 2015 Annual Educational Conference brochure. Regulatory bodies, irrespective of the fields in which they operate receive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of complaints and inquiries each year. As a result managing complaints and their ensuing investigations take up a large portion of a regulator’s time and resources.

It can be challenging for any regulator to carry out its core business activities while managing complaints, particularly if they have limited resources to do so. However, with the industry-wide focus on transparency and the growing public demand for information regulators are under an increasing amount of pressure to provide accurate and timely information regarding complaints and cases to the public.

There are likely a number of factors that have contributed to this growing demand for information and the focus on transparency. One factor could be the accessible nature of modern communications. Technology has completely changed our relationship with information. The public expects quick and easy access to the information that will impact them and it is the responsibility of the regulator to identify what information should be shared, and to share that data in a timely manner.

Another reason could be the recent high-profile cases that have flooded the media in the last few years, specifically surrounding health care services in Canada. It was these cases that led to Ontario’s Health Minister Eric Hoskins introducing new measures to make Ontario’s health system more transparent. His December 1st transparency deadline gave bodies that regulate physicians, dentists and the like only a few short months to tell the government how they plan to publicly reveal more about their investigations.

Similarly, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the little correlation between cost and quality of health care services in the United States. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) energized this effort when they released their report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century, which looked at the general issue of healthcare transparency and focused on price and clinical performance transparency. The goal of this report was to encourage the increased availability of information needed by consumers to make informed healthcare choices and to increase trust in the healthcare system.

These factors have created public expectation for increased transparency regarding regulatory processes and decision-making, an expectation not limited to health regulatory Colleges. Regulators are now responding to the growing demand for information and working towards improved transparency by:

  • Reviewing and re-designing the organization’s website to ensure information is easily accessible and understandable and meets the needs of the public, members, applicants, and other stakeholders.
  • Establishing strategic communications plans, some leveraging social media, to ensure the information needs of the intended recipients are met.
  • Providing agendas and meeting minutes for all Council meetings.
  • Providing full council meeting and public hearing schedules on the organization’s website.
  • Reviewing the public register using best practice guidelines and recommendations to evaluate navigation, search, information access, and relevance.
  • Increasing focus on data analysis to inform regulatory activities and public reporting.

All of these are plausible responses to the demand for improved transparency, however, consider the impact these initiatives will have on your business. How will your internal processes change if meeting minutes must be recorded for every council meeting? Do you currently have easy access to corporate data and the tools to analyze that data and create meaningful reports?

Implementing recommendations regarding transparency involves reevaluating traditional approaches to data management and implementing new processes. There is no simple fix to improve transparency, however reevaluating your current processes provides the opportunity to find new ways to manage your business and streamline workflows to bring about more efficient, timely and transparent processes.

Technology provides a mechanism for a regulator to deliver its responsibilities effectively and efficiently. A comprehensive member management solution can provide the tools to create more transparent processes and share information easily, while maintaining control of your data.

When looking for a member management solution consider the changing regulations and growing public expectation regarding transparency and openness. Does it enable transparency and offer the functionality necessary to improve current processes? Here is some of the functionality our customers expected with regards to case management, when shopping for a member management solution:

  • Complaint Intake: Ability to submit complaints online, via email or entered manually into the system
  • Managing Complaint Investigations: Ability to keep a record of all complaint submissions against a member along with all case details, including allegation categories, key dates and supporting documentation.
  • Visibility into Hearings: A holistic view of a complaint from intake to resolution, including key dates and times, members sitting on hearing panel, investigation details, outcomes and decision details.
  • Appeals Process: Ability to initiate the appeal process with full access to all documented information regarding the case.
  • Membership Management: Ability to create conditions or notices against a member, suspend or revoke membership and levy any fines.
  • Information Sharing: Connect complaints with the Public Register to allow public access of information regarding complaints against specific members.
  • Preparing Case Files: The ability to access and consolidate all information related to a case and member into one report that can be distributed to any staff involved in the hearing process.

Improving transparency starts with improving the processes surrounding case management and information management. By replacing manual information and case management processes your organization can streamline workflows involved in managing cases, automate manual tasks, and gain access to all documents related to a member with a simple search.

We’d love to hear more about your efforts to become more transparent and want to hear what you thought of this post! Visit the Peopleworks booth in the Exhibit Hall at CLEAR’s Annual Educational Conference to meet the team and discuss this further (and to pick up a Peopleworks water bottle!).

Incase we’ve peaked your interest here is the RECA session information so you can work it into your schedule!
Complaints, Investigations, and Outcomes: A New Perspective
Friday September 18, 2015
8:30 AM – 9:30 AM

Our team is thrilled to be exhibiting at CLEAR’s Annual Educational Conference again this year and we look forward to seeing you there!

For more information on the conference visit CLEAR’s website.