Leveraging Technology for Optimal Risk Response
The purpose of the healthcare industry is to improve patients’ lives and as such, risks in this setting generally refer to factors and/or events that should they occur, could cause harm to the patient. Traditionally, healthcare risk management was reactive, focusing on patient safety, the prevention of medical errors, and the lawsuits that resulted from these errors. Nowadays however, healthcare risk management has broadened to become more proactive due to factors such as the increased use of healthcare technology; issues with cybersecurity; and regulatory, legal, and reimbursement requirements. Healthcare organizations now must re-evaluate their risk management programs to look at risk management from the perspective of the entire organization, Enterprise Risk Management (ERM), rather than just promoting patient safety and preventing exposure to litigation.
Managing Risks – Risk Response Planning
As stated by the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the article Risk Management in Healthcare Information Technology (HIT) Projects , “managing risk is the systematic process of identifying, analyzing, prioritizing, and responding to risk.” The PMI suggested four main methods for risk response planning:
- Risk Avoidance: avoid risk by taking steps such as changing methods, resources, or plans.
- Risk Acceptance: accept the risk. For example, having a contingency plan prepared as a back-up system should the risk occur.
- Risk Mitigation: lessen the impact of the risk. For example, adding countermeasures to plans.
- Risk Transfer/Shifting Risk: this can be done by contracting externally or outsourcing.
The Role of Technology in Mitigating Risks in Healthcare
While the increasing use and rapid expansion of technology in healthcare has led to increased exposure to risks, technology also has a role to play in mitigating risks and allowing risk response to be expedited. A ‘must do’ for healthcare organizations in mitigating risks is investing in a robust enterprise risk management system. There are many such systems on the market offering solutions for documenting incidents, tracking risk, reporting trends, benchmarking data points, and making industry comparisons. Software solutions are available that can identify breaches, protect systems and data from being hacked, continuously monitor for potential security incidents, and help the organization to remain in a constant state of compliance with requisite regulations.
A major function of ERM is eliminating the risks associated with departments operating as silos and standardizing risk mitigation strategies across the organization using technology. Healthcare organizations can also leverage technology to mitigate risks incorporating data analytics in processes such as decision-making, risk prioritization, and resource allocation, among other things.
Healthcare risk management continues to evolve as new risks emerge, lessons are learned, and changes continue to occur in the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations need to be flexible and place themselves in positions to readily adapt to any changes. Technology can be a game changer in helping organizations stay on top of risk management and risk response processes.