Sharing ideas on Risk, Human Performance, Teams and Leaders

Risk Management - A Common Sense Mindset?

Published: Sun 10 Mar 2019
Risk Management along with Patient Safety are two of the main themes of Risky Business Event talks. Find out more about the benefits of attending.

Do you ever have a feeling that risks are stacked against you as a health care professional trying to do your best on a day to day basis? Many feel the same way and speaking to delegates at previous Risky Business Conferences, it is also true that professionals often feel very isolated when it comes to managing day to day risks. It need not be so particularly if a common-sense approach is adopted.

Risk is an Everyday Part of Life

Everyone faces risk and healthcare has many, with huge variability in patients, treatments and therapeutic decision making. This leaves many professionals feeling that they can’t win if something doesn’t go to plan. There are many terms to define these occurrences. Labels such as, adverse outcomes, SUIs, and never events (which ironically are not uncommon) are often used. They happen because the interaction between humans and systems is complex and both fail from time to time. Risk is inevitable.

A Natural Reaction

When something untoward happens there is a natural fight and flight reaction from both patients and health professionals. This can be misinterpreted as a lack of care but my experience of 23 years in professional indemnity is that this is rarely the case. Health professionals do care but are terrified of the consequences and of being blamed. This can lead to a risk averse approach to managing risk and to the practice of defensive medicine.

Dr Richard Anderson, CEO and Chairman of The Doctors Company in the USA has highlighted the huge cost of defensive medicine which in my view arises when we stop looking at Risk with a common-sense mindset.

Do Blame Cultures Exist?

A culture of blame is often stated as a reason for a risk averse approach. Many industries have recognised that blame cultures increase risk. In Healthcare, Jeremy Hunt spoke about the need to avoid a blame culture when he was The Health Secretary in the UK. Sadly, this is more easily said than done and there is great variability in health care institutions. Some look for people to blame when something goes wrong, and others are more concerned with defending their position or institution. There are also some great institutions that have taken a common sense and learning approach with great results and a safer environment for all. These are organisations that look to understand and learn when something goes wrong. They do so by integrating risk as part of their everyday planning and supporting professionals and patients when things go wrong.

A Shared Approach

Sharing experience about Risk across different organisations and industries is the key benefit of Risky business conferences and most importantly learning how others dealt with risks that may have seemed overwhelming at the time. I look forward to sharing experience once again in June 2019.

Author: John Tiernan