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Healthcare Risk Management in Practice

Almost every major industry in the United States has some form of risk management as a component of their daily operations.  Arguably, in no industry is risk management as important as it is in healthcare, in fact, it can mean the difference between life
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Almost every major industry in the United States has some form of risk management as a component of their daily operations.  Arguably, in no industry is risk management as important as it is in healthcare, in fact, it can mean the difference between life and death.  Organizations develop and implement risk management strategies to prevent and mitigate financial losses and in healthcare that also includes patient safety.  Healthcare risk managers now play a critical role in the success and stability of hospitals and other healthcare organizations through assessing processes and procedures, then developing, implementing, and monitoring risk management plans.

The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) was established in 1980 as a membership platform within the American Hospital Association.  Today, there are 6,000 members of ASHRM promoting risk management strategies through education, advocacy, publications, and communication with leading healthcare organizations and governmental agencies.  Much of the focus for ASHRM is in the development and implementation of safe patient care practices, the mitigation of financial risk, and safe working environments.

Let’s examine what a risk assessment might involve.

  1. What processes are in place to maintain and monitor patient safety?
  2. Is the organization adhering to all mandatory federal regulations?
  3. Is the environment conducive to minimizing potential medical errors?
  4. Are policy and procedures documentation readily available and communicated to staff?
  5. Is the organization reactive to risk or proactive toward mitigating risk?

These are a few of the basic assessment areas that a healthcare organization must include when developing their risk management strategies.  Failure to comprehensively prepare risk management plans can compromise patient care and safety while increasing financial liabilities.  These losses will impact the long-term viability of the organization.

Now that we have an idea of what a risk assessment might be comprised of let’s review the components of a basic proactive risk management strategy.

  • Documentation – Processes and procedures MUST be accurate and thorough. Should be kept available for studying and use as a reference.
  • Education – All aspects of an organization's risk management strategy must be documented and provided to employees as part of regular training. Staff should know how to prevent and respond to risks.
  • Prevention, Correction, and Complaints – Employees are empowered to take steps to prevent what is avoidable. They are also able to react to any risks that are unavoidable with speed and thoroughness.  The staff is also trained on how to respond to complaints that create the potential for future risks and liabilities.
  • Departmental Cooperation – Lines of communication are open and utilized between departments to expedite risk management and mitigation.  When all departments are on the same page, potential malpractice risks are handled more effectively.
  • Reporting Procedures – The process for identifying and reporting an incident must be crystal clear throughout the organization. Incident reporting that is accurately prepared ultimately serves to reduce organizational risks.

Clearly, risk management can play a crucial role in a healthcare organization.  A proactive strategy can reduce financial liabilities, create operational efficiencies, improve quality, and reduce the overall costs of care.

How prevalent are risk management strategies in your organization?  Have you received any communications or training about risk management procedures?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below, or tell us about them on our Facebook page.  This is an important topic, and we want to hear from you.