Ethics Update Strengthens AAPC Membership
Part 4: Instill the ethical principles of fairness and responsibility in your daily routine.
There are six ethical principles of professional conduct: integrity, respect, commitment, competence, fairness, and responsibility. We’ve explored all but the last two: fairness and responsibility. Let’s take a closer look at how you can employ these favorable traits into your everyday practices.
As members of AAPC, you’re ethically and professionally responsible for treating co-workers, employers, and colleagues fairly, and to foster an environment of fairness, whether you’re at work, a chapter meeting, or another professional event. The principle of fairness requires impartiality, honesty, and disclosure of conflicts of interest. A conflict of interest generally occurs when you’re in a position to influence a decision on behalf of a particular party that may affect another party to whom you have a corresponding and competing loyalty.
Fairness generally disregards personal feelings and prejudices, and desires to attain proper balance of conflicting interests. Fairness is treating others in the same fashion you want to be treated, and it’s at the core of all professional engagements. It’s likely the person seeking your professional services has less knowledge and training in the area of coding than yourself. You bring your knowledge and training as a healthcare business professional to establish a relationship of trust to deliver services and advice to the client. You are responsible to ensure an environment of inclusiveness and a commitment to diversity in the organization you serve.
As AAPC members, it’s your responsibility to develop, administer, and advocate policies and procedures that foster fair, consistent, and equal treatment for all. Regardless of your personal interests, you’re obligated to support and foster a corporate culture made of decisions by your organization that are both ethical and legal. It’s your ethical duty to conduct yourself in a manner that equalizes your self-interests with the interests of others. To achieve this goal, you must always act impartially and objectively. When you consider each statement or action from the perspective of those on the receiving side, choosing the correct approach becomes more readily apparent.
The word “responsibility” is used many different ways. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines responsibility or “responsible” as:
- Liable to be called on to answer
- Liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive, or agent
- Being the cause or explanation
- Liable to legal review or, in case of fault, penalties
- Able to answer for one’s conduct and obligations
- Trustworthy and able to choose for oneself between right and wrong
The perception the healthcare industry has for AAPC and its members is in no small part based on the degree of professionalism we individually and collectively exhibit. It’s for this reason that AAPC members are expected to uphold to ethical standards. Responsibility is a core principle in the AAPC Code of Ethics. It requires conformance with all elements of the code and requires every member to help enforce it.
As a healthcare business professional, you are responsible for many things. As an AAPC member, you’re accountable for your professional conduct, as well as the conduct of your colleagues. In living up to this obligation, you contribute to the success of AAPC and your profession.
While some think of responsibility in terms of blame (e.g., “Who is responsible for this?”), a more positive connotation is to think of responsibility in terms of opportunity. Exert your choice to be responsible and take control! Respond appropriately, regardless of the situation or the impact of doing so. Create the outcome you want through personal choices that follow accepted ethical and moral rules.
Consider your personal decisions and actions and how they will affect you and everyone around you. Come to know and accept your limitations. As healthcare business professionals, you are responsible primarily for your work product and conduct. You are responsible for being competent and knowledgeable, and for giving employers the benefit of your knowledge and advice, even though this advice may not be followed. Ultimately, you are responsible to uphold the image of our profession. Meet this obligation by controlling your conduct and reporting misconduct of others. You are accountable in both circumstances by virtue of the AAPC Code of Ethics.
When you accept responsibility for something, others trust you will follow through. There is and must be trust that AAPC credentialed members possess all of the core values that the Code of Ethics demands: integrity, respect, commitment, competence, fairness, and responsibility. Your reputation is associated with the characteristics of other AAPC members. Acting irresponsibly results in a loss of trust. When one member violates the trust given by another, it not only damages the reputation of the individual, but that of the profession, as well. This is why AAPC members are required to comply with ethical obligations and why sanctions are imposed on those who do not conform to these standards. You must always hold yourself accountable for your actions and decisions.
This concludes our educational series of articles on ethics, which are also available on the AAPC website. Any questions about the revised Code of Ethics or complaints regarding potential misconduct by a member can be directed to the Ethics Committee by email at
AAPC Ethics Committee