From today until Friday, we’re celebrating Healthcare Risk Management Week! This year’s theme, “Making a World of Difference,” celebrates the important work that risk managers and other patient-safety professionals do to ensure the safe, quality care of patients throughout the United States. While many healthcare professionals are quite familiar with the work that risk managers do, the majority of the public is not. To help change this, we’d like to cover some of the many important duties that risk managers handle on a regular basis. Here are 6 of the ways that risk managers help to make healthcare safer for both patients and medical professionals:
- Identifying and eliminating risks in clinical settings
In healthcare, one of the most important risk-management responsibilities, as you might expect, involves identifying and eliminating risks. These are often patient-safety risks, like unsafe medication-administration practices, but they aren’t always. Risk managers also work to identify potential risks for healthcare workers, like having a lack of personal-protective equipment available in their facilities.
- Educating doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers
Educating healthcare professionals is one of the methods that risk managers utilize to eliminate the risks they identify. To reduce the potential for repeat incidents, for instance, risk managers educate healthcare workers on the importance of filing incident reports in an honest, accurate fashion. By taking the time to educate healthcare workers on risk-reduction methods, risk managers make the patient-care setting a safer environment for everyone, especially patients.
- Responding to incident reports
When incident reports are filed, risk managers are the ones who respond first. They investigate the circumstances surrounding incidents and help to determine the appropriate course of action. When patients are involved, risk managers are also responsible for speaking to them and their families so that further problems can be avoided and additional care can be provided if necessary.
- Managing claims made against their organization
Patients file claims against healthcare providers frequently. While these claims are usually well founded, false claims are filed often enough to be a major concern. In addition to investigating the circumstances surrounding patient claims, risk managers need to review state and federal law in order to make liability determinations. For this reason, risk managers are generally quite skilled with the interpretation of law, especially laws pertaining to healthcare.
- Examining records for signs of fraud or theft
While the majority of a healthcare risk manager’s duties are safety related, preventing fraud and theft is another important responsibility they have. Believe it or not, cases of fraud and theft in the healthcare setting are not uncommon. To prevent fraud and theft in their organizations, risk managers review medical documentation and trends regularly. Thanks to their efforts, risk managers have helped to stop cases of fraudulent spending and payments, sometimes identifying losses in excess of $100,000. Risk managers have also helped identify and prevent serious cases of healthcare theft, including the theft of narcotics.
- Reviewing research and recommending policy changes
The medical field is evolving constantly, and we learn more every day about ways to improve patient outcomes. To stay on top of current best practices, risk managers review healthcare-related research constantly. When they identify ways that their facilities are falling behind on these best practices, especially those related to patient safety, risk managers push for policy changes. As a result of risk managers’ efforts, patients are less likely to suffer undue harm.
Healthcare workers’ role in risk management
All healthcare workers have the ability to make patient-safety improvements in their facilities. To help make your department safer, try to identify safety risks while performing your day-to-day duties. When you notice a potential safety concern, collaborate with your coworkers and your risk manager to find ways to resolve it. By taking steps to reduce risks in your department, you’ll be making your work environment safer for yourself, for your coworkers, and for your patients.
Starting a career in healthcare risk management
If risk management sounds like something you’d be interested in pursuing as a career, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are several different routes to take. In fact, many risk managers have backgrounds in business, insurance, or law. However, the majority of healthcare risk managers have clinical, nursing, or other forms of medical experience. Regardless, anyone can become a risk manager with some additional education, on-the-job training, or both!
Try your hand at risk management now! Post a few of your patient-safety ideas in the comment section below and share them with the rest of our readers!