Health Care Risk Management Plan

Concerned surgeon

Health care risk management is often a reference to a hospital-based legal resource that can be used by staff health professionals to help prevent or avoid legal risks when situations occur that could potentially result in a lawsuit.

If an error, or even a perceived error, has occurred that may be harmful to a patient, it should be reported to a health care risk management consultant who then may be helpful in either averting a lawsuit altogether or at least reducing the risk of progression to a larger case than it might be otherwise.

Develop Your Own Risk Management Plan

If you don’t have the benefit of being able to use a hospital or corporate medical risk management resource, you should consider developing your own risk management plan...


The first step in any health care risk management plan is to identify what activities, behaviors, procedures, physical conditions, environmental issues or potential situations that may put either a patient or employee at risk of any harm.


Assessing the risk is to try to get an idea about what the statistical likelihood of a certain risk-provoking situation might be, and then also determine the relative severity of risk. Then arrange these risks into a prioritized list, so you know which ones to work on first.

Risk Treatment

Treatment usually involves one of four management techniques:

• Avoid or eliminate the potential risk, which basically means don’t do the activity that carries the risk. For example, there is a small, but certain inherent risk of doing joint injections in an office setting. If you want to eliminate that risk, you don’t do joint injections.

• Reducing potential risk can be accomplished by taking steps to either decrease the frequency of an occurrence or decrease the severity of the problem should it occur. An example in medical practice might be to refer a patient to a consultant if the patient is not responding appropriately to your initial treatment or if the patient presents with a problem that is beyond your expertise.

• Risk retention is accepting the potential loss, which might be reasonable to do in a situation where the risk is relatively small, and the risk of not performing the activity is greater than the risk of doing it.

• Risk transfer refers to transferring the risk to an insurance company, which will be responsible for financially paying for the loss after-the-fact, even though the legal responsibility still belongs to the person(s) who contracted with the insurance company for this coverage.

Creating the Risk Management Plan

Create a risk management plan by going through your prioritized list and selecting policies and procedures that fall into one of the above treatment categories for each situation.

You then have to implement the plan, which may include changing or eliminating certain conditions or behaviors, or buying insurance to cover the potential risks.

Revisit the plan periodically. Evaluate new risks promptly. Change or make new plans as the situation dictates.

This page was last updated on Feb. 27, 2009.

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