Hospitals and healthcare systems looking to prioritize patient and employee safety often phrase their initiative as a way to reduce adverse events. The word “reduce” implies that the number of adverse events can be lowered but not eliminated entirely. It implies that some adverse events are simply unavoidable.
But what if organizations changed their mindset? What if the end goal was, in fact, to eliminate adverse events? A hospital without patient safety events may seem like an impossibility, but as more and more organizations are learning, zero harm doesn’t have to be a miracle scenario.
“Many hospitals are embracing the values of high-reliability organizations and occupations like air traffic control towers, nuclear power plants, wildlife fire fighters and astronauts,” states the article 5 Traits of High Reliability Organizations: How to Hardwire Each in Your Organization. “The paradigm works remarkably well in the promotion of patient safety and efficient healthcare delivery.”
High reliability organizations are organizations that operate in complex, high-hazard domains for extended periods without serious accidents or catastrophic failures…High reliability organizations cultivate resilience by relentlessly prioritizing safety over other performance pressures. – Patient Safety Network’s Patient Safety Primer
Where to Start
According to Anne Marie Benedicto, vice president of the Joint Commission Center for Transformation Healthcare, although hospital and healthcare staff may desire to become a high-reliability organization, they often don’t know how to begin. “Transforming to high reliability is a multiyear process,” she said in a Q&A with Becker’s Hospital Review. “And it is probably the biggest change initiative any healthcare organization can undertake right now.”
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In an age where customer experience reigns supreme, the healthcare industry is beginning to view processes and outcomes through a similar lens. Hospitals and healthcare systems are businesses. Patients are customers. And customers must have a positive experience in order to continue using the services of a business. Patient experience is a term often applied broadly to initiatives such as reducing hospital stay length and readmission rates, cutting down incidences of patient safety events, and ensuring patients feel seen and heard.
In an effort to get a hold of this new way of thinking, hospitals are adding patient experience leaders to their staff and also considering the myriad sources that impact the patient experience. Risk managers and patient safety professionals have a unique opportunity to champion patient experience efforts for their organizations. Here are four areas of focus for improving the patient experience with the help of risk management best practices.
1. Get the whole organization involved and invested
With a far-reaching goal like improving patient experience, healthcare organizations will see greater success when they establish a targeted strategy and communicate that strategy clearly across all departments. In many cases, it may make sense to establish an enterprise risk management (ERM) program to make headway. As mentioned in GRC: Where to start? Productive healthcare ERM tools, “Healthcare ERM establishes a standardized framework for identifying risk across an organization, encourages cross-departmental collaboration, and shifts hospitals from a reactive clinical risk program to a proactive holistic risk management program.”
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Risk management in healthcare has especially high stakes. In addition to risks related to operations, finances, and reputation, healthcare organizations must consider those that can be a matter of life or death. Hospitals and health systems work tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of their patients. The right healthcare risk management software will help them achieve that goal.
No matter what an organization hopes to improve—from claims management to incident reporting to clinical rounding—an integrated healthcare risk management information system (RMIS) offers the right solutions for improving patient well-being and finding organization-wide success. Read more about the many aspects of risk management in healthcare.
- Patient Safety & Quality
- Claims & Insurance
- Healthcare Enterprise Risk Management (ERM)
Patient Safety & Quality
Medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. This includes process errors, planning errors, and failures to act. With the right reporting and workflow tools, integrated healthcare risk management software eliminates human error and allows clinicians to work in lockstep to provide better patient care.
To effectively address adverse events and near misses, hospital risk managers need an informed understanding of what constitutes such incidents. This starts with having the technology to efficiently report them. Integrated data tools—such as data surveillance, patient safety event reporting, and enterprise-wide near miss/unsafe condition reporting—that contain simplified forms with clear instructions make data collection efficient and straightforward.
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As the hospital burnout crisis continues to make headlines, healthcare organizations are in need not only of solutions that address the consequences of burnout, but also strategies for preventing burnout in the first place. As discussed in part 1 of this series, the right healthcare risk management technology can play a role in efforts to ensure physicians are more fully engaged. Physicians who feel connected to the core purpose of their work are less likely to burn out, and more likely provide quality patient care.
Another approach to addressing clinician burnout is the establishment of an organization-wide plan to monitor, analyze, and, ultimately, prevent the condition from occurring. Efforts to mitigate burnout will likely come from many directions within an organization, but to streamline the process and get everyone on the same page, a logical but perhaps unexpected place to start is with the hospital risk management team. Healthcare risk managers can play a crucial role in successfully preventing burnout by viewing burnout like the other risks they manage, developing a healthcare enterprise risk management (ERM) framework, and leveraging the technology they already work with on a daily basis.
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Those working in the healthcare industry are no strangers to constant change. A healthcare risk management program and the right technology can help to effectively monitor risk across specialties and improve patient safety. Origami Risk’s Bill Schwacke spoke to Future of Personal Health about the intersection of risk management and the healthcare industry.
Risk management software is used in various industries. How is it applied to healthcare?
Risk management software is at the center of a healthcare organization’s approach to risk, safety, claims, and insurance. The software can define the provider’s approach to risk by linking, organizing, and distributing data from independent, critical functions to provide an organizational view of risk.
Can you elaborate on the correlation between patient safety and risk management software?
Patient safety and risk management software are often linked due to the nature of the data involved. While they often work independently, there are insights that can be discovered when linked together. These insights can improve quality of care and reduce claims/insurance costs for the organization.
Read the full article in Future of Personal Health.
Workplace burnout has become so common across industries that, as of May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes it as an occupational phenomenon in its International Classification of Diseases Handbook.
In the healthcare industry, burnout is a reality and is described by those on the front line in alarming terms. According to a NEJM Catalyst survey Immunization Against Burnout, “83% of respondents — who are clinicians, clinical leaders, and health care executives — call physician burnout a ‘serious’ or ‘moderate’ problem in their organizations.” Based on survey results like these, a report titled A Crisis in Health Care: A Call to Action on Physician Burnout called physician burnout “a public health crisis.”
Burnout has reached crisis level for many reasons, including its prevalence and its effect on staff turnover. But it’s had unexpected consequences for patient care, as well. A JAMA Internal Medicine study concluded that physician burnout doubled the odds of an adverse patient safety event. According to the report, this includes “unsafe care, unprofessional behaviors, and low patient satisfaction.”
In the first part of a two-part series, we examine the main drivers of hospital staff burnout, its far-reaching consequences for healthcare organizations and patients, and how the right technology can play a key role in reducing its widespread nature.
Understanding burnout and its consequences
The WHO officially defines burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- reduced professional efficacy.”
Burnout affects clinicians on an individual level, delivering the mental and physical exhaustion mentioned above. Far from being only a staff issue, burnout has profound effects on hospitals and patients.
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In November 2018, Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston made two medical errors, the second of which lead to the death of a 75-year-old patient. After an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report in early 2019 that outlined a pattern of blood labeling errors at the hospital. A ProPublica article on the report states:
Dr. Ashish Jha, an expert in hospital quality, reviewed the government’s findings and said it appeared St. Luke’s was struggling to meet basic care standards. The labeling mistakes, he said, seemed indicative of ‘a broader systemic problem.’… St. Luke’s appeared to miss warning signs in the months prior to the deadly mistake, according to the government report.
The “broader systemic problem” Dr. Jha mentions is, unfortunately, not unique to St. Luke’s. Many hospitals and healthcare systems face organization-wide, process-related issues, especially in a modern healthcare landscape that’s rife with change. Mergers, multiple technology platforms, and changing healthcare policies, to name just a few, contribute to widespread miscommunication and a lack of transparency. This, in turn, jeopardizes the overall quality of care within these organizations.
Hospitals can stem the scope of these issues by implementing a healthcare enterprise risk management (ERM) program. Healthcare ERM establishes a standardized framework for identifying risk across an organization, encourages cross-departmental collaboration, and shifts hospitals from a reactive clinical risk program to a proactive holistic risk management program. A straightforward process, along with the right technology that leverages healthcare analytics, can help to make this shift effective.
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As hospitals and healthcare organizations work toward better patient care, they can begin by taking a closer look at their internal processes and technology. A reliance on disparate systems that fail to share data efficiently puts organizations at risk of falling short of the demands of modern healthcare. The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality stated that one of the three most critical challenges facing today’s healthcare organizations in their mission to improve patient care is “establish[ing] an integrated data, analytics, and information platform, along with the necessary technical expertise, to capture a 360° view of the healthcare system.”
The healthcare claims process, too, can benefit from a single integrated healthcare risk management system. Having incident reporting and claims management functionalities working seamlessly in one platform offers three major advantages.
1. Increased efficiency and accuracy
Just as working with a single insurer is easier than working with several, integrating healthcare incident reporting and healthcare claims administration into one system can be easier than tracking each in separate systems. But unlike insurance, where receiving multiple coverages from the same insurer may not be possible, hospitals can integrate incident data and claim data with ease through healthcare risk management software like Origami Risk.
Having all data in one system adds convenience for healthcare risk managers who may have previously had to toggle between systems to follow along with the claim lifecycle—from the initial reporting of an incident to the closure of the claim. A daily reality that the article Improving Claims Management with Advanced Integration summarizes as “the need to switch between multiple software systems in order to find all the relevant information on a specific claim. It’s critical to have all pertinent data in one spot to reduce and/or eliminate this quest for data.”
Navigating between two systems also results in detrimental switch costs, the fractions of seconds that occur when moving back and forth between systems. These switch costs rapidly compound, leading to wasted time and increased errors, including misaligned data. With an integrated healthcare risk management system, healthcare risk managers no longer have to bounce between systems throughout the claim lifecycle. If an incident turns into a claim, they can monitor it or move it further along in the process without losing the original incident record.
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Adverse safety events—some that lead to serious harm—occur every day, affecting people across entire health systems. The ability to collect and analyze this data is crucial for preventing future incidents and improving patient safety. Yet, according to a 2008 study, “only 13% [of U.S. hospitals] have broad staff involvement in reporting adverse events.”
With a full schedule of patients and life-or-death situations a part of daily life in hospitals, reporting efforts, not surprisingly, may end up taking a back seat. Sometimes, however, the issues that impact reporting run deeper. Hospital staff may fear repercussions from reporting safety events. In other instances, the reporting process may be so convoluted and time consuming that, despite good intentions, staff is discouraged from doing so. Or maybe, the biggest issue comes after reporting, with hospitals failing to share or apply healthcare analytics in a way that positively impacts the quality of care provided and makes staff feel a part of something bigger.
No matter the reason, any issue that negatively impacts patient safety event reporting has consequences for every person associated with a hospital or health system—especially the patients. In fact, the ECRI Institute listed “standardizing safety efforts across large health systems” as one of the top 10 patient safety concerns for 2019. Even events that seem minor have the potential to result in grave harm. The Joint Commission reported medication error and product and device events in the list of top 10 most frequently reported sentinel events in hospitals in 2018.
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The healthcare industry has especially high stakes when it comes to risk management. The risks aren’t simply business- or reputation-related, though those are important. The most significant ones can be a matter of life or death. Patient safety is at the heart of every hospital’s risk management program and, because of this, a generic risk management information system (RMIS) may not be up to the challenge.
Hospitals and healthcare organizations may consider using a generic RMIS for a variety of reasons. Perhaps another part of the organization is already using one, so it seems simpler and cheaper to stick with the same system. Although using a single platform across an organization is typically a logical approach, given the healthcare industry’s uniquely critical needs, this approach may not cover the healthcare setting’s unique needs and thus can fail, adding more hassle, expense, time, and risk not only to your organization, but also to your patients.
In terms of both the software and the service team supporting that software, a dedicated healthcare risk management solution offers clear advantages over a generic RMIS. This gives healthcare organizations greater insight for staying on track and, ultimately, improving patient safety.
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