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What is risk management in healthcare?

05 July 2023


  • Our product
  • Risk Management

In healthcare, safety is always a top priority. This covers a wide range from patient safety, the safety of staff members and of the environment. In order to keep everything safe, healthcare organisations must put a risk management plan in place in order to mitigate risks. But what is risk management in healthcare?

Risk management definition

Risk management is the identification, assessment and evaluation of risk. In the healthcare industry, it isn’t enough to only report incidents once they have happened, although this is vital to assess what risks they are facing. Organisations must also work towards minimising harm to patient health. They can do this by putting in place a risk management program that allows them to stop incidents before they happen.

What is risk management in healthcare?

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Risk management in the NHS

In the NHS, risk management is one of the 7 pillars of clinical governance, striving for quality improvement in healthcare. Many areas of clinical governance apply to risk management, for example, incident reporting which includes complaints, auditing, risk registers and training.

The effectiveness, responsiveness and accuracy of risk management are vital because the lives of patients and staff depend on it. 

Examples of risks to patients and staff:

  • Incorrect diagnosis
  • Medication errors
  • Slow to act on results
  • Insufficient safeguarding policies
  • Poor communication causing an incident

There are also risks associated with processes, technology, compliance, and the organisation as a whole. The bottom line is that organisations need to develop and implement risk management solutions to manage these risks the best they can. Otherwise, they risk harm to patients and staff which can subsequently lead to reputational and financial damage.

risk management in the NHS

Risk management in health and social care

In health and social care, those involved are often vulnerable and therefore evaluating their risks is important to their safety in order to avoid serious harm.

Common risks are:

  • Moving and handling where the person being moved and the employee involved could be harmed
  • Slips and trips
  • Violence to staff or other service users
  • Falls
  • Burns
risk management in health and social care

How to improve risk management

There is a huge focus in the healthcare industry to use technology to drive improvements. Organisations are at different stages in their digital adoption; some are still working on paper or spreadsheets and finding it difficult to manage. Others have moved to digital but are using legacy software which just isn’t cutting it anymore.

Choosing the right technology is vital so that you can mitigate healthcare risks and improve patient care, with the primary goal of reducing harm or death.

Good software for risk management should:

  • Have incident and event reporting so you can track and identify risks
  • Allow you to log complaints for improvements, but also compliments to show what is working
  • Have auditing so you can measure where you’re at now and work towards improving your KPIs
  • Include risk registers that are flexible to your organisation, no two are the same
  • Contain action and improvement plans so you not only identify and track risk but also act on them
  • Make it mandatory for your staff to carry out the action and improvement plans so that future risks are mitigated
  • Display your analytics in easy to understand dashboards which help to pinpoint any patterns and improvements
  • Enable workforce compliance so you can track staff training and ensure it’s all up to date
  • Have business compliance for those risks in the environment
  • Have great customer service and ongoing support
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One central source of truth

Finally, the software should have all of this in one place. Many organisations have multiple systems to track all of the above, which causes delays, human error in analysis, and inevitably increases health risks.

For example, an organisation may log incidents in one place, but complaints from the same person on different software. They may then have action plans on a third system, and claims on a fourth. Good software will have this all in a central location so that they can be linked, avoiding duplication, saving time and money, and improving safety.

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