Risk Management In Healthcare: Identification & Prevention Are Key! Part1

Life is risky!

Take a good look around. Risk is everywhere.

As a matter of fact, you and I take on risk every single day, we…

  • Enter a crosswalk to get across the street.
  • Take our seat on a plane to travel.
  • Get behind the wheel and drive.
  • Jump in the pool and take a swim.
  • Place an order to buy an investment.
  • Put down money to start a business.
  • Etc…

You get the idea…

 So What is Risk?

The media often talks about risk in relation to investments and financial markets. Beyond that, though, risk is defined as a situation exposing you to danger. The word is also used when there is the potential for losing or gaining something of value.

As I said before, risk is not an isolated incident. It’s with us all the time and it’s all around us.

Every day common activities, by their very nature, carry risk. From getting run over by a car when crossing the street to losing money in an investment.

It’s important to note that different activities carry different amounts of risk. Some things are very risky, while others are considered to be very low risk.

The fact however is, you and I live our lives taking on risk every single day. This includes all aspect of life, personal and professional.

Like it or not, life comes “packaged” with risk and you just can’t avoid it. And since it’s not advisable to ignore risk, it’s best you take steps to manage it.

In this new series of articles, we’ll look at identifying and managing risk in your medical practice.

Let’s start by taking a look at what type of risk is unique to your medical practice. After all, you must first identify where you might be at risk before you can start to manage it.

Three Categories

There are three main categories of your practice you want to look at and identify potential risk. Here are just a few examples of what to look at in each category…


Patient communication:

How does your office communicate with patients? How does your office communicate test results? Do you use a set protocol to communicate with your patients? Is patient communication properly documented by all involved? In the past, have you had problems communicating with patients, potentially putting them at risk? Would the way you communicate with patients today protect you from getting sued?

Recommended treatments rejected/not followed by patients:

How do you handle treatment recommendations either not followed up on or outright rejected by your patients? Is your documentation adequate to support future questions about your recommendations? Would your documentation stand up to claims of negligence?

Quality of Medical Records & Documentation:

Is your documentation up to date and current? Do you adequately document each visit or treatment? Does your documentation 100% support the codes you bill? Remember, if it’s not in your documentation, it didn’t happen! Would your documentation stand up to an audit?



Regardless if you provide exceptional care to your patients, this category has the potential to get you in trouble…


Is your office in compliance with HIPAA? Are your employees HIPAA trained? Is the training documented? Is everyone in the office following rules and regulations related to HIPAA? Do some employees ignore parts of HIPAA? Will your HIPAA practices protect you from getting sued?


Is your staff adequately trained to meet OSHA requirements? Do you maintain data safety sheets? Are exits routes clearly marked? Do you and your staff observe universal precautions regarding bloodborne pathogens? Do you provide universal precautions training to your employees? Do you have a written exposure control plan in place? Would your OSHA practices, training, and documentation pass an audit?

Human resources:

Do you observe all labor laws? Do you have employment posters displayed where employees can see them? Are you legal in your hiring and firing of employees? Do you collect, file, and pay all employee taxes? Do you pay employees on time? Do you maintain employee records for the appropriate length of time? Are your employment practices adequate and meet all legal requirements?




Do you file all business reports? Do you pay business taxes on time: local, state, and federal? Do you maintain proper records for your business? Do you obtain all necessary permits and licenses? Don’t forget or miss taxes… neglecting taxes will definitely put you at risk!


Do you pay all bills, on time? Are you on top of your practice finances? Do you know what you bill out and what you take in? Do you pull financial reports for your practice? Do you track your financial standing and progress? How would you know if someone embezzled money from your practice?


Are you continuously attracting new patients to your office? Is your marketing legal or do you make unsubstantiated claims? Are you interacting with your patients on social media? Are you maintaining compliance with HIPAA when interacting on social media?


Do you carry insurance to protect you and your practice from risk? Do you carry malpractice, business, and/or business interruption insurance, etc….? Is your level of coverage adequate to protect you and your assets?


Here’s what to do next:

Examine your office with the above questions in mind. Look at how you do things and what policies and procedures you have in place. Of course, not everything discussed above applies to your situation.

Identify Your Risk

Ask yourself what might pose a potential risk to you and your office.

For example… you may have an employee categorically ignoring HIPAA. This one person puts your entire practice6911bj

at risk! A patient could file a complaint, accusing your office of violating basic HIPAA practices.

While this may seem unlikely, keep in mind that the strangest things can happen. And once you’re under the “microscope”, who knows what else may come up to the light…

Remember, all risk is not created equal. Risk comes in various magnitudes with the potential to affect you and your business very differently.

Unfortunately, not all risk is preventable (at least not 100%). However, much of the risk you come across in your practice can be addressed and, at the very least, be curtailed.


In the next article, we’ll look at what you can do to best manage your risk.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you…

Tell us what you think and share with us what YOU do to manage risk in your office.


By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians” and a regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog.


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