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Knowledge Center Items Patient Safety A Top Risk Management Priority in Health Care

Patient Safety A Top Risk Management Priority in Health Care

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From hospitals to medical practices, long-term care facilities, home health care, and allied healthcare services, patient safety should continue to be a top risk management priority for providers. This is underscored as part of Patient Safety Awareness Week, which takes place March 10-16. The event, coordinated by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), is designed to inspire action to improve the safety of the health care system – for patients and the workforce.

Although patient safety has advanced during the last 20 years, the IHI cites studies indicating medical error as the cause of 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. In addition, a national study conducted by the IHI/NPSF Lucian Leape Institute and NORC at the University of Chicago in 2017 found that 21% of adults report having personally experienced a medical error, and 31% report that someone else whose care they were closely involved with experienced an error. The survey also found that ambulatory settings are a frequent site of medical errors, and that errors related to diagnosis and patient-provider communications are the most commonly reported. Nearly half of those who perceived that an error had occurred brought it to the attention of medical personnel or other staff at the health care facility.

Focusing on Patient Safety

By employing strong risk management practices, health care organizations proactively and systematically safeguard patient safety as well as the organization’s assets, market share, accreditation, brand value, and community standing. The key components of an effective risk management plan for health care organizations include:

  • Identifying Risk: Analyzing institutional and industry data, and by engaging everyone — patients, employees, administrators, and payers— an organization can uncover exposures that threaten patient safety and would otherwise be difficult to anticipate.
  • Quantifying & Prioritizing Risk: Once identified, prioritize risks based on their likelihood and impact of occurrence. Allocate resources and assign tasks based on these measures.
  • Investigating & Reporting Sentinel Events: These events, coined by the Joint Commission, are “any unanticipated event in a health care setting resulting in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient or patients, not related to the natural course of the patient’s illness.” When a sentinel event occurs, immediate response and thorough investigation is required to address immediate patient safety issues and reduce future risk. Having an established plan promotes a calm and measured response, as well as transparency by staff and ensures that corrective actions can be implemented and evaluated.
  • Performing Compliance Reporting: Federal and state requirements mandate reporting of certain types of incidents including sentinel events, medication errors, and medical device malfunctions. Incidents such as wrong-site or patient surgery, workplace injuries, medication errors, etc. need to be documented, coded, and reported.
  • Capturing/Learning from Medical Mishaps: When mistakes or mishaps are avoided due to luck or intervention, an organization can gain insight to help identify and prevent risk. Healthcare providers should develop a culture that encourages reporting so that prevention measures and best practices can be instituted.
  • Deploying Proven Analysis Models for Incident Investigation: Models for analyzing accidents are used to understand failures and causes as well as relationships among risks. For example, understaffing and fatigue often lead to medical errors. Applying well-established models improves risk management effectiveness and efficiency.

Risk management for health care organizations also involves finding the right balance of risk financing, transfer and retention. RPS provides comprehensive insurance solutions for health care providers, including insurance programs, to transfer risk.  We can assist you in securing coverage for your insureds including providing tailored Medical Professional and E&O insurance for a wide range or providers, from individual physicians to the largest, most complex group practices or clinics. Contact us for more information.

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