Risk has quite an ominous reputation. According to Merriam Webster, risk is defined as the “possibility of loss or injury” or “something that creates or suggests a hazard.” Synonyms include “peril,” “hazard,” “gamble.” However, when it comes to Medical Malpractice and Workers Comp insurance, risk doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Its’ association has typically been tied to fear, often of the unknown. In a hospital, when something goes wrong – and it inevitably will – the stakes are high. It’s natural to feel fear, but it’s also possible to flip the script on risk; making risk work for you, not against you. Let’s explore how…
It starts with a change of mindset. Making a change of this scale must be incorporated into the culture with ownership at all levels of the organization and the CEO must make it a priority in the strategy to set the tone for all others. A good place to start is by finding a good partner, who can guide you in developing best practices, offer you the right protection for the unknown and advocate on your behalf when things don’t go as planned. Margaret Nekic, CEO at Inspirien, notes that being a hospital CEO can be scary. “Lives are in their hands, so risk management is incredibly important, and it needs to be human.” She goes on to emphasize that hospital CEOs “need the right partners to help them navigate the risks associated with delivering a quality patient experience. They need people who are extensions of their staff.”
Traditionally speaking, risk management has been siloed into a single role – a risk manager – someone who is responsible for every safety and process checkpoint throughout a hospital. The job description alone outpaces what one person can realistically deliver upon against expectations. It’s a model that leads to frenetic responses.
Healthcare risks are very similar in nature if their desired outcome is a quality patient experience. While all healthcare entities face their own staffing, technology, process, and data challenges; they must always keep this outcome in mind, or they can get easily distracted. So, finding a partner who has expertise in these risks is critical in helping incorporate it into the strategic plan.
Instead of reacting to each circumstance, imagine implementing a strategic and proactive plan known by all employees. Picture a hospital setting in which risk management accountability is dispersed across teams at all levels. This enforces a system in which everyone can be both responsible for their actions while feeling supported. For hospitals of any size, investing in a comprehensive risk management plan today will resonate throughout the financials tomorrow.
Margaret recommends doing internal research: collect dollar-for-dollar financial data, perform a facility assessment, determine training needs, conduct a culture survey and finally, “be vulnerable as a leader. Don’t excuse the things you don’t want to hear.” Once the information is gathered and action plans are set with performance, leaders should also be sure to incorporate a rewards system that acknowledges positive outcomes throughout the patient’s healthcare experience. A new risk management strategy should be one of savvy reprioritization, one that supports and empowers staff with knowledge to make the most appropriate decisions, without ramifications.
The key to regarding all risk as strategic is to invest in it. The benefits will show up year after year when the staff, and their actions, yield financial and reputational returns through personal accountability. Try to think of risk as an adventure and that’s an apt way to rethink risk. When you plan your adventure, you are less likely to be blindsided by adverse situations, but when they arise, you are prepared. This is what it means to think about risk strategically.