risk management in healthcare

Risk management in healthcare – what is the purpose?

Within every workplace, risk management plays a key role in helping organisations understand the risks they may face, the chances of them occurring, the impact they would have and how they can be controlled.

It is not possible to stop every accident or risk from occurring, but having steps in place to minimise the damage should something happen can make a huge difference in the repercussions for the future.

Risk management in healthcare

Risk management is particularly important within healthcare organisations, in which one risk can quickly escalate into a wider problem that can seriously impact the health of one or many patients, as well as carry critical financial and safety implications. Risks within healthcare are particularly unique in that should things go wrong, there is every possibility that the impact could be life-threatening.

Preventing this is vital.

Potential risks to look out for

Some potential risks unique to healthcare include

  • Prescriptions expiring, being mis-handled or mis-communicated
  • Test results going AWOL or being understood incorrectly
  • Appointments being missed by patients in need of critical care and not rescheduled
  • Patients not understanding the medical information being given to them
  • The risk of infection or disease
  • Patient records being mis-handled or information lost
  • Diagnosis not occurring quickly enough or delays to treatments
  • Risk of further injury from conditions and infrastructure around patients
  • Staff negligence; possibility of operations going wrong
  • and so it continues – the list is exhaustive

Each healthcare organisation faces unique challenges, and it isn’t possible to put a one-model-fits-all solution in place across the board. However, there are some key considerations that can still be made regardless to protect your organisation; these include patient safety, legal regulations and legislation, potential areas for medical negligence or mistakes, policies currently in place and those that may be introduced in the future, infrastructure and staffing levels.

By putting in place comprehensive risk assessments and creating a risk management programme, it can help to prevent issues from arising and minimise the impact of problems if and when they occur. The greatest result of this is a decrease in risk to patients, staff and visitors.

It also means that should problems arise, it is possible to learn from these mistakes and apply the findings to other areas of your workplace to prevent these risks from spreading or happening again.

In beginning this process, it can be particularly useful to have one member of staff assigned to the role of Risk Manager, liaising with all teams to ensure potential risks are dealt with quickly and strategies are cohesive. Online risk management software can help this assigned individual with project risk management and incident reporting.

It allows staff to log, track and report on any incidents that occur within your healthcare organisation from the initial incident right through to the steps they can take to find a resolution.

It also makes it possible to assess and flag risks, integrate your own policies into the assessment and ensure all members of staff have access to these strategies.

When assessing each possible risk, it is important to consider questions including:

  • What risks may potentially occur?
  • How likely is it that this risk will occur?
  • What would the consequences be if it did occur?
  • Who would be affected by this risk?
  • What would the severity of the risk be?
  • Can it be prevented and to what degree?
  • Are there ways of reducing the risk?
  • What aspects of the risk cannot be avoided?
  • What will the safety implications be?
  • Would there be financial repercussions – and to what level?

In analysing the responses to these questions, and thinking about your healthcare organisation specifically, it is then possible to put together a risk assessment that puts patient and staff welfare at the heart of it, protecting their safety but also your organisation.

It can help to decrease mortality rates, reduce re-admissions and prevent costly financial consequences as a result of poor risk management. This is beneficial to both patient satisfaction and meeting necessary standards.