The pressure is rising in hospitals – and so are the risks. | Riskonnect

The hospital landscape is an environment ripe for risk. Between an overall increase in chronic diseases and high turnover rates requiring large-scale staff replacements every five years, hospitals are facing a multitude of challenges.  At stake are the hospitals’ reputations and bottom-line concerns that go beyond the traditional risks of infections, readmittances, and slips and falls.

Recently, Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare (PSQH) released its 2019 Industry Outlook Survey, offering insight into the biggest safety concerns of healthcare organizations across the country. As you’d imagine, industry leaders mentioned a wide variety of issues that could keep them up at night, but the feedback pointed to one key takeaway: hospitals could greatly benefit from implementing efficient enterprise risk management (ERM) to deal with the risks and put minds at ease.

 

The most basic risks can still be the most worrisome.
In our digital age, the risk landscape extends far beyond the physical walls of any hospital — data breaches, ransomware, and other cybersecurity threats that lurk on the periphery still need to be accounted for. However, while the risk landscape is certainly evolving, healthcare leaders reported that traditional risk areas are still extremely worrisome with patient slips, trips, and falls (64%), healthcare-associated infections (58%), medication mix-ups (54%), workplace violence (34%), and antibiotic stewardship (32%) topping the list. And 56% of respondents reported that their healthcare facility is either slightly or highly ineffective at addressing staff burnout, which can double the risk of patient safety incidents.

Communication – or lack thereof – was also cited by healthcare leaders as a key issue. It may seem simple, but when a patient doesn’t feel heard, situations can easily tornado into crisis. Sometimes avoiding these risks just comes down to listening and thoughtfully responding – even if staff don’t have an immediate answer to their query or problem – and bringing the concern to the patient relations department. Resolving complaints before they turn into bigger grievances, claims and litigation, or lower patient satisfaction scores, is the first line of defense when it comes to hospital risk management and can mitigate some of the more serious and damaging risk events.

 

Basic risks can breed brutal outcomes – but ERM can help.
The traditional and new-age risks hospitals face can hurt the institution’s reputation and create huge financial burdens and battles with insurers. One tiny mistake as a result of something as simple as exhaustion or poor communication can result in losses worth millions of dollars to patients and their families, as well as insurers. Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver recently experienced this after they announced they may have exposed some patients to infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV. The incident caused a major lawsuit from more than 60 patients. Communication failures among hospital staff were a factor in 30% of malpractice cases between 2011 and 2016, resulting in nearly 2,000 deaths and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs.

Enterprise risk management approaches can help hospitals mitigate and manage these risks. When it comes to patient trips and falls, no technology or system can intervene and prevent that specific incident from happening. What ERM approaches can do is enable employees to easily input safety event information (such as a slip or fall) into software that helps the quality control team perform in-depth analysis on the event, which helps them refine processes and procedures, or identify equipment needs, to mitigate future risks and errors that could be financially and reputationally damaging.

For communication issues, ERM can help eliminate information redundancies and associated staff disconnects that transpire when operating in silos. Employees can discover and address patient complaints more quickly and avoid the escalation to grievances and claims. Staff can also capture a more accurate view of overall patient satisfaction and make suggestions for care and process improvements if needed.

ERM creates a complete view of risk from across the entire enterprise and uncovers insights that enable staff to improve patient safety, quality of care, and the operational, reputational, and financial well-being of the healthcare organization. The risk landscape of hospitals may be more daunting today due to a variety of factors, but with the right ERM approach, teams can eliminate what’s preventable and manage the inevitable risks.

Learn more about the key issues and risk in the healthcare industry today in the 2019 Annual Patient Safety & Quality Industry Outlook.

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