Foundational Principles and Best Practices for Hospital Risk Management
When an effective hospital risk management program is in place, the most critical element—maintaining a culture focused on patient safety—is intangible. Safety culture is a shared belief among the entire hospital staff that safety is important, and a shared responsibility.
By definition, safety culture is part of organizational culture and is upheld by staff at all levels and in every department. Risk management is not just a clinical concern. Everyone contributes. Maintenance workers identify and remove trip hazards in and around the facility. Housekeeping plays a vital role in infection control. Food service monitors food safety as well as patients’ individual dietary restrictions. Registration, Health Information Management and IT staff all ensure that patients are identified and logged into systems correctly so they receive the appropriate treatment. Administration provides access to ongoing training and promotes an open-door policy that encourages employees to report risks and incidents.
Across all areas of responsibility, communication is key. A hospital cannot address problems that aren’t brought to light. Supporting individuals who report and those who are involved in an event is also important during the course of investigating what happened and determining how to prevent a recurrence. Where accountability comes into play, human resources should be involved in investigations along with the hospital’s risk manager and other stakeholders.
Maintaining open lines of communication and a non-punitive environment for reporting incidents are cornerstones of an effective risk management program. Additionally, here are four best practices for hospital risk management.
- Conduct risk management facility rounds on a regular basis. This ensures, through direct and frequent communications, that staff members are familiar with the risk manager and the means to report concerns or problems. At the same time, management can solicit input from staff more directly involved with hospital operations and patient care, while seeing firsthand how units are functioning.
- Ensure staff members are competent in their assigned jobs.Ask staff and managers on a regular basis if they have the tools and support needed to do their job safely and effectively.
- Make sure there are policies in place to document and assess incidents and near misses. Complete an incident report and procedurally drill down to the root of the issue, determine next steps or action plans, and find ways to measure the outcomes for effectiveness.
- As part of safety culture, celebrate successes.Regular rounds bring wins to the risk manager’s attention so, for example, housekeeping can be acknowledged for how clean the units are even if room turnaround time has increased slightly as a result. Also celebrate “good catches” to cement the culture of reporting.
Although patient safety and medical liability are paramount, hospital risk management in today’s healthcare climate encompasses much more, from data security and regulatory compliance to environmental hazards, facility safeguards and behavior in the workplace. Only by creating a facility-wide culture of safety can hospitals proactively identify and address risks that arise in these and other areas. Especially in small and rural hospitals, where risk managers generally wear several hats, buy-in at every level and in every department is critical.
CHC collaborates to meet the unique risk management and insurance needs of each hospital we work with. Learn more about CHC’s Risk Management & Insurance Services.