Speakers provide advice and reminders for RMs

Speakers at the recent meeting of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) in San Francisco offered advice on a wide range of topics. Here is a sampling of some of their comments:

Learn the financial side of risk management.

That is job security for risk managers. Understand not just the risks and liabilities that face your institution, but also exactly how they affect the facility’s overall financial outlook.

Avoid becoming the person in your facility who always says, "No, we can’t do that."

It is counterproductive to be known as the wet blanket for every idea that crosses your desk. Your job should be to help the facility complete the project safely and in a way that minimizes risk, not just to declare that it can’t be done.

It is better to be judged on your overall activities rather than the facility’s losses and lawsuits.

Though you are charged with limiting losses and lawsuits, a risk manager’s job involves more activities that will not be directly reflected in those year-end numbers. Encourage your administrators to look more at the policies, educational programs, and other proactive activities for which you are responsible.

If you are judged by the more basic numerical wins and losses, take credit wherever possible. Don’t be shy. Point out that, "If not for me, this lawsuit would have been filed, and this one would have been lost."

— Sandy Mahon, vice president for risk management and quality assessment, Program Beta, Alamo, CA.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is about to lower the permissible exposure limits for glutaraldehyde (Cidex), the commonly used hospital disinfectant.

The health hazards of glutaraldehyde exposure are gaining more and more attention, so you should have a program in place to limit exposures.

— Michael L. Rawson, MA, CHSP, HEM, corporate manager for safety and support services, Intermountain Health Care, Salt Lake City.

Encourage physicians to make a test call to their answering services occasionally.

A physician reports a true experience that illustrates the importance of confirming your answering service is passing on calls. (Because of potential liability, Healthcare Risk Management is not naming the physician.) The doctor was on call to cover a physician practice over a three-day weekend, but he had received no calls for the first two days. Because that seemed odd, he called the answering service.

The phone rang 37 times, and when a voice finally answered, the person immediately said, "The physician’s office is closed. Call back Tuesday," and hung up. The doctor had no chance to even say he was the service’s client.

"Did I abandon my patients by using that service? Yes, I did," the physician explains. "But the patients don’t care why. They just know they couldn’t reach anyone."