A 2016 analysis published in BMJ revealed that medical error is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. This includes process errors, planning errors, and failures to act. Martin Makary, a health policy expert at Johns Hopkins and an author of the analysis, explains that the “complex medical system” in the U.S. “sometimes lacks transparency that results in the wide variation in quality of medical care that is the endemic problem in safety.” Makary also notes that “safety nets are missing and standardization is lacking.”
At the heart of this standardization problem lies outdated technology and confusing systems. Many healthcare providers continue to use lagging systems that don’t efficiently collect or analyze data. Furthermore, a mix of legacy and new systems makes for potential conflicts that add to the confusion and fortify workplace silos. Without the sharing of information, organizations fail to see big-picture strategies and solutions that could help prevent medical errors and increase patient safety.
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Another Groundhog Day has come and gone. Or has it?
In the movie Groundhog Day, weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is forced to relive the same day, over and over again, no matter how he tries to change the outcome. The Environmental, Health and Safety Newsletter recently compared the latest release of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries with previous years and observed a similar phenomenon.
The article notes, “The latest census is remarkably consistent with the previous reports. People continue to die in numbers, proportions and circumstances much as they did the year before, and the year before that and the year before that. There are a lot of Groundhog Days in how we’re getting killed on the job.” Even worse is the fact that these factors are no secret. “The same hazards keep killing workers,” the article continues. “What’s most likely to kill someone is not a trick question. It’s an open-book exam.”
If something as critical as lowering workplace deaths can get trapped in an endless cycle of no progress, it shows just how immovable some of these challenges can be. Lack of desire or effort isn’t always to blame.
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When insurance carriers undertake the process of upgrading critical IT systems, project timelines can drag on for years. Such a long project not only is disruptive and daunting, but also poses considerable risks. An analysis of a Gartner survey on the root cause of failed IT projects indicates, “[B]y ensuring that projects are kept small, and as a rule of thumb, not exceeding six months in duration, a much lower failure rate can be achieved.”
What contributes to longer implementations?
While every implementation faces a unique set of challenges, there are several common factors that can push out the go-live date.
A multi-vendor architecture, layered with isolated legacy systems and a patchwork approach to quick fixes, breeds a complex environment where any change may be difficult. The Cognizant white paper Reducing IT Complexity to Accelerate Digital Business notes, “IT complexity has become a critical imperative — requiring businesses to fundamentally rewire and simplify their IT estate.”
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We all want reassurance that the work we do matters—that we’re contributing in a way that matters. Author, consultant, and speaker Norman Marks, in a blog post titled Internal audit needs to perform in a way that matters to the board and top management, puts forth a series of questions that prompt those guiding internal audit to consider whether their efforts actually support leadership’s ability to set and achieve organizational objectives.
“Internal audit can help leaders with assurance that their people, systems, and processes are able to deliver the desired results – and advice and insight on how to improve them further,” Marks writes. “But do we?”
Contributing greater value to the board and top management by serving as a knowledgeable and respected advisor may require a shift in thinking about the role that internal audit plays within the organization. It is also likely to necessitate a change in audit planning and practices. Audits themselves must be seen as a critical component of a more holistic and continuous approach to identifying and analyzing risk, evaluating the effectiveness of controls, and proactively addressing areas of weakness.
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Standing atop Mount Everest is an extraordinarily rare feat. Since the first reported ascent in 1953, only 5,000 people have reached the mountain’s 29,029-foot peak. Over the same span of time, nearly 300 have died attempting to do so. And while making it to the top of Everest is tough, having the fortitude to turn back when the summit is within reach can be even more difficult.
The costs of climbing Everest are significant. In addition to spending roughly $100,000 for a single attempt, the time climbers put into planning and training for the venture is typically measured in years. Given these investments of time, energy, and money, many climbers not surprisingly push on in the face of extreme weather, oxygen depletion, and increasingly bleak odds. Unfortunately, the drive to make the investment “pay off” costs some their lives.
In a season 1 episode of the podcast Choiceology with Dan Heath, Michael Roberto of the Harvard Business School refers to this phenomenon as a sunk cost trap. In a sunk cost trap, Roberto explains that the human mind obscures rational thought because of emotional attachments already ‘sunk’ into achieving a goal. We all experience sunk cost traps in our daily lives: holding on too long to a bad investment, staying in a bad relationship, or refusing to walk out of a bad movie on your first night out in months.
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How many members of your current RMIS vendor’s service team have come and gone over the course of your relationship? What about the number of service team leads who have guided support efforts on behalf of you and the other users of your RMIS software?
When you dial into a meeting and get introduced to yet another service team replacement, your RMIS provider is under-delivering.
Many business-to-business software providers place far too much emphasis on “software” and not enough on “service.” In terms of features and functionalities, the results of such an approach may be impressive. But the imbalance comes with a cost. Subpar support is always detrimental to client success.
The importance of consistent, knowledgeable RMIS technology support is difficult to overstate. Given the increasingly complex risks every business faces and the ever-expanding role risk managers play within their organizations, a platform implemented five or more years ago may struggle to keep pace with an organization’s changing needs. A revolving door of service team personnel who need to be brought up to speed on the unique aspects of a RMIS and the risk management program it was put into place to support compounds the problem.
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Winter Storm Harper took its toll on large parts of the Midwest and Northeast, causing several deaths, hundreds of car accidents, and power outages that affected tens of thousands, according to the Weather Channel.
Extreme weather—from blizzards to hurricanes to wildfires—wreaks havoc on businesses in every region of the country, with damage having a lasting effect. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Security, 40% of small businesses do not reopen after a severe weather event. This is in part due to a failure to have an actionable plan in place. As we discussed in Step up your disaster preparedness, don’t wait for the news report, organizations can get tripped up when there’s confusion over who should act and what those actions should be during a weather crisis. Without clear plans, practice, and timely alerts, critical resources may fail to execute.
Origami’s cloud-based RMIS continues to make weather preparedness a priority. With our new proximity search feature, audit functionality, and flexible data integration, you’ll be able to quickly identify major weather risks and effectively communicate how key parties can take action.
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Creating a strong safety culture can be challenging for any organization. Recent regulatory changes are placing an organization’s safety culture under additional scrutiny. In the EHS Today article The Risks of Using Injury and Illness Reporting as Measurements of Success, Mark Kozeal discusses how an OSHA rule change penalizes those with cultures that discourage reporting.
“Under OSHA’s update to its 2016 rule on recording and reporting workplace injuries and illnesses, such programs would be in violation of the law,” Kozeal notes. “Whether this incentivized culture was purposeful or inadvertent doesn’t matter. What matters is that any practice that incentivizes employees for not reporting an injury or illness or denies employees incentives if they report an illness or injury, can now be cited by OSHA.” This means that a poor safety culture can now affect the bottom line.
First steps to avoiding the “culture penalty”
Now that there is the possibility of additional regulatory costs associated with failing to create a strong safety culture, the importance of near-miss reporting is multiplied. As we discussed in Using RMIS technology to improve incident and near miss reporting, two factors are essential to developing a healthy safety reporting culture:
There is no quick fix when it comes addressing the factors that inhibit reporting. However, taking a number of practical steps that include making it easier to submit reports (addressing practicality) and allowing for anonymous reporting (reducing fear) can be a foundation upon which to build an effective safety program. With more data to draw from, the ability of risk managers and safety professionals to identify, analyze, and take strategic action to reduce the likelihood of injury is vastly improved. Over time, this can contribute to a breakdown in perceptions of uselessness and acceptance of risk.
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The responses to a recent Deloitte-commissioned survey of 300 in-house legal executives contain good news for those working closely with in-house legal departments on risk management and compliance-related issues. An executive summary of survey results, Going beyond risk and compliance: Enabling the Legal function to embrace digital transformation, indicates that a majority of respondents feel that in-house legal departments are aware of and open to the use of technology in efforts to make risk management and compliance more efficient and cost-effective.
While there is a willingness to move forward with the use of technology to automate repetitive tasks, improve collaboration, and proactively contribute to the overall strategy of their organizations, there is still work to be done. “Despite encouraging levels of awareness and signs of adaptability, survey respondents have revealed that there is still progress needed before the Legal function fully embraces digital opportunities,” write the study authors. “When they do this, Legal will be able to revamp its approach to risk management and compliance, thus becoming more agile, more integrated and more value-driven, playing an integral role in the delivery of corporate strategy.”
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When choosing a risk management information system (RMIS) or making a RMIS switch, the process of assessing systems sometimes feels like comparing apples to apples. As important as the big functionalities are, organizations would do well to look at the more granular details—details that, however simple they may seem, address their organization’s very specific needs, while also saving time and preventing mental fatigue.
As a Risk Management Monitor article says, “An effective relationship starts with knowing the specific requirements of your enterprise and setting relevant priorities” and then checking how closely your RMIS provider can match them.
Why the little things matter
The workforce today puts in longer hours, more days a week than ever before. But employees aren’t spending all of that time tackling more projects and setting more goals, as one might expect. The 2018 survey Companies Are Overlooking a Primary Area for Growth and Efficiency: Their Managers found that 36% of company managers spend 3 to 4 hours per day on administrative tasks. An employee who spends an hour manually entering data or emailing colleagues about upcoming tasks is using time that could be better spent on more valuable activities like interacting with clients and improving product offerings.
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