Whose Job is Risk Management in Healthcare?

Who holds the responsibility for risks in healthcare? 

According to the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management, a serious safety event (SSE) is defined as "a deviation from generally-accepted practice or process that reaches the patient and causes severe harm or death." Similarly, the Serious Incident Framework by NHS England, defines a SSE "events in healthcare where the potential for learning is so great, or the consequences to patients, families and carers, staff or organisation are so significant that they warrant using additional resources to mount a comprehensive response." 

In that respect, risk in healthcare is a shared responsibility, from a patient's bedside to a seat at the boardroom table. Regardless of an individual’s job description, everyone in the healthcare has the potential to create or prevent risk.  

So why do we associate the responsibility of risk primarily with the risk management department?  

According to PwC's Risk in Review 2017 report, there exists a need to rethink that conception. The report states that there is "an ongoing shift in the ownership of risk management activities." It seems that many industries are approaching risk management and accountability in as a collaborative and shared responsibility. Indeed, the report suggests that "nearly two thirds (63%) of our respondents said shifting more risk management responsibilities to the front-line staff makes companies better at anticipating and mitigating risk events."  

In this way, risk management becomes a communal responsibility – overseen and structured by the risk management department. After all, as healthcare organizations and systems create cultures of safety and zero-tolerance, the need for high-quality, high-integrity data becomes even more essential – and a lot of that data comes from reporting.  

But shifting the onus to frontline staff can be easier said than done.  

Staff might see reporting as a significant addition to their workload. In other instances, they may worry that reporting an incident will get them in trouble. Or, as one National Center for Biotechnology Information article astutely puts it, "data collection can be poor because staff don't see the point."  

Just as patients want to feel that they are being listened to, staff want to know that the work they put into reporting will have an impact. How do we keep staff engagement – the lifeblood of healthcare improvement as high as possible? The answer may be in the strength of the feedback loop. We see this every day in our own lives; When you make a charitable donation, you want to see how those contributions are being used to help those in need; when you help your kids study for a test, you want to see that A+ and smile when they bring the paper home.  

There are lots of great strategies to help make that happen:  

Put patient safety reporting in the spotlight in a big way. One way to do that is by joining national trends like Patient Safety Awareness Week and getting creative with how you showcase patient safety. Our clients shared some of their most useful strategies

Take the focus of the event and shift it to the potential impact. Brigham & Women's Faulkner Hospital have been working hard to achieve just that with their collaborative just culture – you can read more about their strategy here. Across the ocean, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust has been working hard to achieve that with their more open culture which has increased reporting – you can read more about their strategy here.

Close the loop on reporting. This is where technology can really play a constructive role in helping you encourage staff to take ownership of the role, they play in risk management. RLDatix offers a number of ways to bolster a sound feedback loop while promoting a high degree of staff engagement and ownership. 

How does RLDatix help?

We're only as good as the data we collect. The RLDatix software is designed to help healthcare organizations have an open communication channel with front line staff to keep them engage, surface all relevant and important information to the managers and leaders in order to make right decisions and be able to customize what and how the information is collected to suit their needs. 

Collect relevant information – Gather reliable data about adverse events, near misses and good catches to start your learning process with intelligent forms.

Report on trends – Surface information that drives learning and share important applicable data with your internal risk teams, executives, shareholders and regulatory bodies.

Dashboards – Gain a better perspective into your collected information by triangulating your data from multiple modules and understanding trends.

Shaping the future of risk management

Risk mitigation and the goal to become a more high reliability organization doesn't just rest with management and leadership. Having an engaged front line staff, proactive teams and direction all contribute towards patient safety.

Interested in learning how your team can help mitigate the impact of adverse events at your organization?

Check out some more helpful resources and read about the success stories of your peers.  

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