A Guide to Risk Management in Healthcare

Healthcare Risk Management: Steps for Handling an Incident

Diamond-shaped flammable sign.

The unforeseen may happen and an adverse event may occur even with the most robust risk management plan in place.

Create an outlined risk response guide to reduce harm to those involved in the incident; correct any unsafe physical conditions within the campus, building, and/or rooms; and evaluate any equipment that was used. A detailed plan also helps reverse or eliminate any staff inefficiencies, specifically regarding unsafe practices or a lack of skills.

When an incident does occur, it requires ongoing surveillance of the event — including chronicling your responses and revising them as needed — to improve safety and reduce future risk.

In general, when an incident has occurred, use the following steps (tailoring them to your practice environment).

The 6-Step Process for Handling an Incident

1) Define an incident.

Educate staff as to what events trigger the classification of incidents within your organization.

2) Tend to the affected individuals immediately.

Work quickly to correct the injury, damage, or adverse event. Provide care, comfort, and reassurance to those negatively impacted.

3) Communicate articulately.

Designate who is responsible for communication management. This person should debrief all persons involved in the incident as soon as possible, either as a group or individually. This means patients, staff, visitors, leaders/managers, and administration. Frequency of announcements are at the discretion of the risk manager or their designee and are decided upon as per the situation in a case-by-case basis.

4) Report the incident internally and externally (if necessary).

  • Internal Reporting: Ideally, your risk management plan and office environment has a reporting structure in place. If it does not, you will need to relay the incident to all staff involved with the patient and the administration.
  • External Reporting System: Some instances will need proper and timely communication to county, state, and federal agencies. (i.e. Medicare, county or state health departments) If an incident or event falls in this category, designate who is responsible for submitting external reports and the timeline for it.

5) Track sentinel events internally.

Designate a risk manager or another appointed person to track this event, location, people involved, and the effects of the incident. This enables you to find trends, if they exist, and helps to create a targeted approach for reducing or eliminating risk and unsafe conditions or practices in the future.

6) Identify areas of risk that require more attention.

Determine what’s needed to reduce this risk (or similar events) from ever occurring again. Some examples are: increase staffing levels, remove faulty equipment, revise policies and procedures as needed, or remediate any knowledge or skills gaps that the staff may have.

Image courtesy of iStock.com/tzahiV

Last updated on Aug 25, 2021.

Originally published on Aug 15, 2018.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

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