Risk Management for Healthcare Organizations

Learn how to protect your healthcare organization from risk and prevent costly incidents from happening.

What is Risk Management in Healthcare?

Healthcare risk management proactively identifies, assesses, and mitigates risks that could harm patients, staff, and other healthcare stakeholders. It can include medical errors, infections, falls, adverse drug reactions to computer system failures, and poor communication between providers.

The goal of risk management in healthcare is to identify risks before they occur to reduce the risk of them arising in the future.

By taking proper steps towards recognizing potential risks posed by various healthcare operations and providing education about those risks, healthcare practitioners can minimize harm in their facilities or departments and provide better patient care.

Importance of Risk Management in Healthcare

Risk management is a vital part of healthcare, providing multiple advantages and helping to avoid potential problems. Here are the main benefits of healthcare risk management solutions.

  • Improve Patient Safety

The primary focus of healthcare risk management is safeguarding patient records. All health data must remain strictly confidential in compliance with HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Breaching HIPAA laws can cause substantial repercussions for healthcare organizations. Risk management strategies can prevent data breaches and ensure patient confidentiality by establishing privacy policies.

  • Ensure Data Security

Data security is essential for protecting patient information, but unfortunately, cyberattacks and other data breaches are becoming increasingly frequent.

Establishing a risk management plan and pre-planning for potential scenarios will give your organization a quicker response time to help resolve issues quickly.

  • Plan For Catastrophes

Developing a risk management plan to prepare for the various risks, such as natural disasters, data breaches, etc., that may occur in healthcare helps mitigate the unexpected.

A plan is critical to working in a hospital; it allows quick action when a disease outbreak arises and, more importantly, keeps patients safe.

Key Components of Performing Healthcare Risk Management

All healthcare risk management plans should include the following components:

  • Education and Training

Employee training requirements should be outlined in risk management plans, including new hire orientation, continual learning and review, yearly assessment and verification of proficiency, and situation-based education.

  • Patient and Family Grievances

Risk Management Plans should outline measures to ensure patient satisfaction and mitigate the risk of litigation. These measures should include clear information about response times, staff responsibilities, and appropriate actions when handling patient and family complaints.

  • Purpose, Goals, and Metrics

Risk management plans should articulate the purpose, benefits, and specific goals for reducing liability claims, sentinel events, near misses, and overall risk costs for an organization. The plan should also mandate reporting on quantifiable and actionable data.

  • Communication Plan

Information about how to communicate about risk and with whom should be included in the healthcare risk management plan.

In contrast, the healthcare risk management team must promote open and spontaneous dialogue. It is essential to document the following steps and follow-up activities. The plan must also detail reporting requirements for departments and the C-Suite. Also, the plan should promote a safe, “no-blame” culture and allow anonymous reporting.

  • Contingency Plans

Risk management plans should also provide contingency preparation in case of adverse system-wide failures and catastrophic events, including Electronic Health Record (EHR) system malfunctions, security breaches, cyber-attacks, epidemics, long-term power outages, and acts of terror or mass violence.

  • Reporting Protocols

Every healthcare organization must have a quick, easy-to-use system for documenting, classifying, and tracking possible risks and adverse events. These systems must include mandatory reporting protocols.

  • Response and Mitigation

Healthcare risk plans must also include collaborative systems for responding to reported risks and events, such as acute responses, follow-ups, and reporting.

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Creating a Healthcare Risk Management Plan

To manage and create a healthcare risk management plan effectively, healthcare organizations and risk managers must:

  • Identifying Risk

Due to the ever-evolving nature of risk management and the uncertainty that comes with it, it can be difficult for healthcare organizations to recognize all their potential threats. Fortunately, by utilizing data, institutional and industry knowledge, and involving all stakeholders, such as patients, staff members, supervisors, and insurers, in the process, healthcare risk managers can discover potential risks and counteract them more readily than before.

  • Quantifying and Prioritizing Risk

It is essential to rank, prioritize, and score risks upon identification based on the likelihood of occurrence and their corresponding impact. Risk matrices and heat maps can visually depict these risks and effectively enable resource allocations and task delegations to the appropriate stakeholders.

  • Investigating and Reporting Sentinel Events

Rapid response and thorough investigation are essential to addressing immediate patient safety issues and reducing future risks. By establishing a plan, staff can respond calmly and with transparency, allowing them to implement and evaluate corrective actions quickly.

  • Performing Compliance Reporting

Compliance with Joint Commission, federal, state, and other regulatory requirements necessitate the documentation, coding, and reporting of incidents such as sentinel events, wrong-site or patient surgery, workplace injuries, medication errors, and medical device malfunctions.

  • Capturing and Learning from ‘Near Misses’ and ‘Good Catches’

A ‘near miss’ or a ‘good catch’ occurs when luck or action stops mistakes and bad events from happening. It’s the ideal moment to identify and nullify risks, so healthcare providers should motivate staff to report these incidents to put protective best practices in place.

  • Uncovering Latent Failures by Thinking Beyond the Obvious

A nurse giving a patient the wrong medication dosage is an example of an active failure. On the other hand, latent failures are usually hidden and only discovered through analysis and critical examination. Were the patient’s charts challenging to read because of poor lighting? Did the nurse rush because he had too many high-acuity patients? Investigate underlying and less-visible reasons for an unfavorable episode.

  • Deploying Proven Analysis Models for Incident Investigation

Deploying well-established models, such as Sharp and Blunt End Evaluation of Clinical Errors (SBECE), Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), and Root Cause Analysis (RCA), can help improve efficacy and efficiency in risk management. Detailed frameworks are implemented in these models to identify the causes and effects of medical errors.

  • Finding the Right Balance of Risk Financing/Transfer/Retention

Risk financing encompasses an organization’s strategies to finance losses resulting from risk. It often entails risk transfer via insurance and risk retention, such as self-insurance and captive insurance.

Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.