by Despina Kotis, Pharm.D., director of pharmacy, Northwestern Medicine
Hospital leadership and its teams are focused on cost management and risk-reduction strategies while also juggling government mandates, patient safety and quality. Managing risk is challenging especially as hospitals acquire more offsite locations and care shifts from inpatient to outpatient settings. By example, in 2003, The American Hospital Association reported 145 free-standing emergency rooms in the country. By late 2013, there were more than 400. As a leader, how do you mitigate risk and cut costs in our shifting operating landscapes?
Healthcare Is a Dangerous Profession
While there are more risk types, risk is not new to healthcare leaders. Healthcare can be dangerous. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees incur 653,900 injuries and illnesses every year -- more than seven times other industries. Risk in this workplace hit an all-time high Ebola scares last year. Incidents are crucially dependent on updated policies, training and system-wide initiatives such as appropriate infection control and waste stream management practices. Eight out of 10 waste streams are regulated and employees must be consistently trained. Prepared leaders are familiar with the costly consequences of broken processes, non-compliance and environmental missteps. Partnering with third-party experts can help leadership achieve goals and apply proper techniques for waste segregation, transportation and disposal.
Compliance Risk Magnify as Hospitals Merge, Buy Locations
Infrastructure growth can translate to more compliance headaches for many departments, but particularly for pharmacies. Operations must follow strict guidelines to properly dispose of pharmaceutical waste and to keep it from public water supplies. Hospital formularies can include up to 5,000 drugs for a large health system which can become a lot of waste to manage. Although pharmaceutical waste is a relatively new stream, executives are better understanding its impact by continuously training teams on the 21 Joint Commission standards and characteristically hazardous waste.
Beginning From Within
Risk mitigation and compliance starts with culture. Identify champions who set positive examples. Redefine strategies annually to monitor and strategically manage risk. Partner with a reliable vendor that is up-to-date with legislative and regulatory changes. Aligning these strategies can create positive perceptions for hospitals that compete in the age of consumerism when 20 percent of the population accounts for 80 percent of the healthcare dollars spent.
For the full article on this topic that appeared in the January Executive Insights magazine, click here.