Risk management in health care is an issue of paramount significance as any malpractice is fraught with consequences that could be much more deplorable than in any other sphere of human activity. Whereas in most industries, companies develop and apply risk management programs and strategies for prevention of irrelevant financial and resource losses, in health care, these concerns are coupled with patient safety –when it is undermined, this can threaten someone’s life (Shanks, 2016).
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The malpractice crisis of the 2000s negatively affected the health care system: higher rates of plaintiff verdicts resulted in increased insurance rates and new limitations on health care accessibility. However, despite its negative effects, the crisis fostered risk management development which had to be transformed from reactive to proactive. Nowadays, problems are solved before they have a chance to become reality (Shanks, 2016). Health care systems take a collaborative approach to risk management and use a centralized reporting system for sharing their experience with other departments. The process has become much more efficient as each facility has developed its own risk management program that meets both the risk management standard and its own specific needs (Oleske, 2014).
The paper at hand is going to describe and analyze the Houston Methodist Risk Management Program in terms of its adequacy and ability to adhere to the recognized standard for risk management. Some recommendations on improvement that could help reduce risk will also be provided.
The Key Aspects of Risk Management Program of the Houston Methodist Hospital
The risk management program in the Houston Methodist is a complex approach that allows preventing potential problems before they start to be hazardous. The program relies upon successful performance of the following activities (Houston Methodist, 2016):
- developing and maintaining a secure environment that would make it possible for the organization to meet its objectives and fulfill its major mission of providing professional care for the whole community;
- predicting all potential sources of losses including avoidable financial expenses;
- updating and improving the list of recommendations that would help maximize the effectiveness of in-patient care in order to reduce future readmission risks;
- elaborating systems of identification, control, and administration of efforts that are required for lowering risks;
- complying with regulatory requirements of other management programs;
- collaborating with other facilities to develop risk monitoring methods;
- regularly reviewing and introducing corrections to the accepted practices if they fail to produce positive effects;
- investigating documents (including laws, regulations, additions, etc.) related to health care in order to assess the impact of newly-introduced legal actions on the risk management process;
- coordinating activities of health care specialists of different levels for preventing mutually exclusive actions in dubious cases;
- collecting, assessing, and disseminating data to all the stakeholders in case there is a threat of an emerging risk;
- monitoring statistics, preparing and presenting statistical reports in order to track the effects of the risk management program implementation for the given period;
- ensuring that all the leadership and staff representatives participate in educational programs and receive the necessary training on a risk management strategy that they can apply in practice;
- providing clear guidelines for actions on a day-to-day basis that have to be performed for identification, analysis, and reduction of risks;
- providing a plan for urgent risk management as well as the system of reporting risk situations immediately to those who are in charge to handle them;
- developing a consultation system for patients to have relevant knowledge about health risks that can occur in the absence of medical staff;
- ensuring awareness of management representatives about regulatory agency requirements by scheduling timely preparation for accreditation surveys;
- providing guidelines for handling patients’ complaints;
- guaranteeing special surveillance of patients from risk groups;
- maintaining record-keeping system necessary for storing critical documentation connected with earlier strategies of risk management;
- analyzing mistakes committed in risk management previously and developing strategies to avoid them in the future in case a similar situation occurs;
- suggesting improvement recommendations and testing new activities that are believed to mitigate and prevent risks.
As it is evident from the description, the risk management program accepted at the Houston Methodist is a comprehensive system that covers all the aspects of health care provision. The program adequacy is proven by the fact that (Houston Methodist, 2016):
- it addresses the problem of existing risks and provides instructions in order to react to them with high speed and accuracy;
- it provides a prevention plan that helps avoid risks;
- it ensures an accurate and complete record of risks that can be used as case studies;
- it manages coordination keeping everyone busy with their own responsibilities;
- it recognizes the importance of staff education in risk management strategies and their implementation;
- it addresses the principles of handling patients’ complaints, which can also help lower potential risks;
- it gives instructions concerning the most effective ways to report incidents for saving time and avoiding losses;
- it recognizes the necessity to update and upgrade risk management strategies to comply with the national standards.
The Program’s Adherence to the Recognized Standard of Risk Management
Judging by the content of the risk management program, it can be stated that the Houston Methodist facility bears comparison with the model facility for the reasons enumerated in the previous section of the paper. This facility meets recognized standards for risk management, which is evidenced by the following facts (Houston Methodist, 2016):
- its risk management program effectively deals with risks that may have a negative impact on the quality of services through the application of a well-developed strategy coordinating actions of all parties involved;
- the facility has all the required documentation outlining responsibilities of medical staff in connection with risk management, setting quality standards, and providing guidelines to guarantee the successful implementation of the risk management program;
- it satisfies learning and development needs arising from the program update;
- the approved documentation of the facility provides only those recommendations that have been tested empirically and proved their effectiveness;
- the facility monitors the process of risk management for it to correspond to the commonly accepted practices;
- it provides appropriate mechanisms for communication of the stakeholders both inside the organization and beyond it;
- the facility promotes the idea of personal accountability of each member of the staff for risk management activities, which are clearly stated and monitored;
- it integrates patients into risk management process;
- the facility ensures minimization of fire and environmental risks as it meets all the legislative safety requirements;
- all incidents and failures of risk management system are properly reported, recorded, and rated according to the effect that they produced and the losses that followed; root causes are identified, and regular reviewing is performed;
- the managers at all levels demonstrate their commitment to the organization and fulfill their personal and professional responsibilities including those that concern risk management;
- the resources necessary for successful implementation of the risk management program are regularly provided by the facility in due quantity.
Recommendations for Further Improvement
Since the major standards are met, the improved effectiveness of the program and reduction of emergency situations rates can be achieved through the implementation of some patient-specific strategies. They include (Coombs, 2014):
- sending notifications to those patients whose prescriptions will soon expire and never filling those that are already out of date, which can reduce the risk of medication abuse;
- always tracking medical test results that are missing for some reason; an adequate plan of monitoring the receipt of the results will ensure that patients can be consulted and treated in due time;
- introducing the system of following up missed appointments, especially in cases when they were not rescheduled; even if the patient believes that he/she does not need another appointment with the doctor, this measure may help reduce the risk of both admission and readmission;
- developing a strategy to ensure the comprehension of the treatment by the patient to avoid misinterpretation and hazardous initiatives;
- introducing minor modifications that could help prevent injury and immobility (improving bathtubs, bed rails, grab bars in toilets, etc);
- keeping records of patients long after discharge for being able to monitor risks that can emerge during the period of rehabilitation at home.
All these steps may seem insignificant in comparison with comprehensive strategies; however, they can considerably increase patient well-being and satisfaction as well as release their stress. This could help the Houston Methodist create a more human-oriented approach.
Coombs, W. T. (2014). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning, managing, and responding. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Houston Methodist. (2016). Web.
Oleske, D. M. (2014). Epidemiology and the delivery of health care services. Berlin, Germany: Springer.
Shanks, N. H. (2016). Introduction to health care management. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.