At a time when the risks to hospitals and health systems are on the increase, some healthcare risk managers feel as though they are being pushed to the sidelines and their responsibilities delegated among other hospital administrators, says Leilani Kicklighter, RN, ARM, MBA, CPHRM, LHRM, a patient safety and risk management consultant with The Kicklighter Group in Tamarac, FL, and a past president of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) in Chicago.
The solution for that problem will always be showing how risk management contributes to the overall business goals of the organization, she says.
“There are those who say the position is being deleted from the organization and the tasks distributed among other positions,” Kicklighter says. “There are many reasons why those deletions are taking place, such as senior management’s lack of understanding the role and how to use risk management as a good business tool.”
Healthcare systems also are looking for any opportunity to save money by delegating responsibilities to other employees, and in some cases, risk managers play into that strategy by failing to show the value of their risk management to the overall business plan of the organization, she explains.
However, the growing complexity of medicine and healthcare management could be the saving grace for risk managers. Healthcare risks of all types are increasing in response to financial and regulatory developments, new clinical concepts such as robotics and telemedicine, and other challenges such as readmissions, infection prevention, and clinical professional shortages.
“In a majority of facilities, the risk manager is the only employee in that department, whereas infection control and quality usually has several,” Kicklighter notes. “Again, that may be attributed to the lack of understanding of the role of risk manager. Hopefully, senior management will become more understanding of the value of an effective risk manager and risk management program as a part of just good business practices.”
MORE REGS TO KEEP UP WITH
One of the largest challenges facing risk managers these days is TMI: too much information.
Healthcare is changing rapidly and bringing new and updated regulations to keep up with, and everyone is demanding more data for all sorts of initiatives, Kicklighter says. Other challenges include:
- shortages of healthcare professionals and the need to understand the roles of quality improvement;
- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);
- compliance so you can facilitate collaboration when respective exposures are identified.
HAS RISK MANAGEMENT CHANGED?
So from a career standpoint, how is being a risk manager in 2015 different from any time in the past?
“Way back in the day, we had typewriters and secretaries. Electronics has created instant response expectations. Texts, faxes, smartphones, and other electronics have influenced all of society, including healthcare,” Kicklighter says. “Just like the fields of medicine and nursing have grown, as evidenced by the increase in the size of the textbooks over the years, there is more and more information to keep up with. That applies to the field of healthcare risk management as well.”
Interest in healthcare risk management as a career opportunity has not dwindled, Kicklighter says, but she does worry that some looking to enter the field have not prepared themselves well.
“I see many who are interested in becoming a risk manager in the healthcare world, but not all have an in-depth understanding of the field and role. Without that understanding and training, many may not succeed or be of value to their organization,” she says. “In the beginning, it was hospitals who created risk manager positions. Now long-term care, hospices, blood banks, ambulatory surgery centers and clinics, large multi-specialty medical practices, and other healthcare sectors have recognized the need for and created risk management positions, opening more opportunities for those with an interest in the field.”
6 QUICK STEPS TO HELP YOUR CAREER
Kicklighter says current risk managers can best position themselves for the future by taking these actions:
- Identify the business needs of the organization, and learn how to address those needs as they relate to the organization’s risks.
- Develop strategic goals to address.
- Find or develop a mentor.
- Communicate to management about business risks.
- Learn how you can quantify risks into financial exposures.
- Show your value to the organization as a whole.
As for what to expect in the near future, Kicklighter says she is optimistic that risk managers can meet the challenges and continue to be key players in healthcare.
“I hope for effective risk management programs and successful risk managers who are evolving as the risks evolve from all the changes in healthcare reimbursements and regulations,” she says. “I also hope for more CEOs and boards understanding that risk management programs are a component of good business practices.”
- Leilani Kicklighter, RN, ARM, MBA, CPHRM, LHRM, Patient Safety and Risk Management Consultant, The Kicklighter Group, Tamarac, FL. Telephone: (954) 294-8821. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.