Healthcare Risk Management – What’s Your Biggest Exposure?

If we think about a comprehensive healthcare risk management solution, what are some of the things that come to mind? If you look up this topic on the internet, you’re sure to receive a litany of different answers. Healthcare risk management could mean managing the risks of who is going to pay you, managing privacy issues, or handling the risk of security breaches – the list goes on and on. I sat down with one of the most experienced healthcare professionals I know to give me her perspective on risk from the top. Her name is Marsha Burke, and she was most recently the Chief Executive Officer of WellStar Health System, one of the largest health systems with over $1 billion in annual revenue and over 1,300 hospital beds.

Identifying a Proper Risk Management Solution

One of the biggest healthcare risk management issues on her mind was patient safety. This topic has garnered lots of attention in the news, and multiple groups have dedicated teams reviewing this initiative. I asked Marsha Burke about all the advancements that hospitals have made with respect to patient safety, and if it was still possible to walk in to a patient’s room with unvetted access. The answer was yes. “Certain areas have more security than others, such as the baby ward and the intensive care units, but it would be very difficult to try to secure all rooms of an entire hospital,” mentioned Marsha. It is true that security can at times collide with commerce, but hence the term risk management…not risk elimination.

The biggest concerns around healthcare risk management security issues seem to still involve people. We see it all the time where doctors whose medical licenses have been revoked are still practicing or where a nurse who isn’t certified somehow gets through the system. How do you fix this problem? Marsha said that “if there was a healthcare risk management solution that could constantly monitor any changes in criminal history or licensure status and instantly alert the employer if there has been a new incident, that tool could be immensely helpful.” Again, all of this boils down to cost.

Supply chains have also become a major healthcare risk management issue for many industries. Many new laws now require that contractor employees be screened almost to the same degree as any new employee beginning work. With this amount of new work, it is almost impossible to operate without getting new funding. In the healthcare field, securing new funding, particularly for non-profits, can be difficult. “It always helps to be able to draw a parallel between outgoing costs and securing new revenue,” said Marsha.

Ensuring Patient Safety & Other Concerns

Being as risk-conscious as a CEO of a major healthcare chain needs to be, Marsha successfully implemented a healthcare risk management solution powered by the latest technology. Healthcare is a technologically-driven enterprise, but even with all the advancements in the world of MRI’s, CT scans, and robotic surgeries, it’s still a very service-oriented business, and service requires people. You still have lots of people coming and going. It’s pretty easy to make sure your machines are secure, but the biggest risk is still people. That’s what a hospital’s most important asset is. “Managing the risk between patients, employees, suppliers, sales reps and everyone else coming onto the property can be daunting, but it is still the most important part of a healthcare enterprise,” Marsha re-iterated in closing.

Finding a risk management solution that works, while keeping to financial constraints, is a necessity. Fortunately, there are healthcare risk management systems that exist to assist with all of these different issues. Some may do everything, or nothing, or anything in between. The important issue to remember when it comes to finding a healthcare risk management solution is DO NOT DO NOTHING. Patient safety isn’t an issue that is going to go away and, with all the political discussions regarding healthcare, now is not a time to be on the front page news explaining a lack of a risk management solution. As Marsha mentioned, there are many facets of risk, but people are still the biggest one.

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