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Risk management within integrated care systems (ICSs)

07 April 2021


  • ICSs

In last month’s publication of 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidance from NHS England, there is a strong focus on bringing together multi-disciplinary, integrated teams to draw up single delivery plans on behalf of their integrated care systems. Areas of focus are elective care, cancer diagnosis/treatment and mental health services.

With integrated care systems in their infancy, how do system leaders ensure that previously fragmented services come together to deliver a seamless patient experience? And how can system risks be more effectively managed to help each organisation understand their impact in the delivery of care?

As systems develop, iterative risk profiling cycles will be required to identify, stratify and mitigate risks as they change over time. To better understand risk, organisations will require:

  • Collaborative assurance frameworks to provide greater system-wide oversight
  • An improvement in the quality and availability of data across the system

Key to the success of proactive risk management within ICSs will be engagement and the communication of information across the system which can be facilitated with technology and centralised data management. This will better support the identification of risks and sharing of best practice approaches – or lessons learnt when things do go wrong.


ICS risk management priorities

Supporting the health and wellbeing of staff

As we recently moved past the one-year anniversary of lockdown #1, the safety of health and care staff remains a priority. At an organisational level, risk management requirements around staffing levels, compliance with infection prevention and control policy and occupational health have been somewhat magnified with Covid-19, but will remain a constant requirement; needing a much more joined-up approach to workforce management at system level.


Continuity of care

As patients move between care settings, there is a need for each organisation to manage the respective clinical and operational risks. One of the biggest risks of patients receiving care from multiple organisations is that no-one takes overall responsibility for their care. Clear delineation of roles and responsibilities across the system and the seamless sharing of data can combat this.


Regulatory responsibility

With the CQC moving to a position where its level of regulatory oversight is proportionate to risk to the public, there will be a much heavier reliance on data to evidence compliance. Mitigating risks more effectively across a system through the sharing of data and information will be required to maintain levels of patient safety; to not only meet regulatory requirements but demonstrate excellence in the delivery of care.


Population health management

Integrated care systems are being actively encouraged to adopt population health management techniques, particularly in response to the Covid-19 recovery. In doing so, it will be important to have visibility of real-time data that supports risk management strategies and the stratification of those risks to prevent health inequalities, access to care or sub-optimal patient experiences.

As we start to see more cross-organisational collaboration and joint planning efforts, there will clearly need to be an increase in risk sharing processes. This will require a mutual understanding of the risks, including how each organisation can influence them and how risks and rewards will be shared in principle. The only way that risk management can be managed effectively across a system is digitally; using technology to support a data-driven decision-making process that involves all key stakeholders in the process.

It is clear that when developing strong and thriving systems at this scale the management of risk will present many challenges as well as opportunities. The good news is that Radar Healthcare can support the NHS at ICS level to overcome many of these challenges with our integrated risk management system. Find out how our software aligns with ICS development plans to provide system-wide oversight, digitalise operational services and create efficiencies across the board, leaving you to focus on the provision of citizen and patient-centred care.

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