Risk Management and Patient Safety

Question: I was hospitalized recently and was given the wrong medication by accident. The following day, the facility’s risk manager asked me many questions and was concerned about the impact of the mistake. I never understood who he was or what a risk manager does. Can you explain? Should I be concerned?

Answer: I posed your question to Dean Felton, a retired risk management consultant from Rockland, Maine. “Your visit following the medication mishap was due to the hospital’s concern with the failure of compliance in employing standard practices for the safety of its patients,” he says.

Every hospital, he explains, has procedures to pro­actively ensure that patients, personnel, and visitors exposed to harm (the definition of “risk”) are assessed for protection from risk. “The risk manager visited you because an incident report was filed after the medication error,” he says. “When something happens that is not expected in the normal course of care, like the medication mistake you experienced, the hospital does everything that it can to learn from the error so that it can refine policies and protocols to keep the same type of problem from happening again.”

The questions the risk manager asked you were designed to gather feedback about the incident. The manager’s ultimate goal is to enhance patient safety and quality of service. “Risk management ensures the hospital’s climate for promoting the best practices of patient care,” Felton says.

Want to learn more about managing a trip to the hospital? Read “Preparing for a Hospital Stay.”

Our expert: Jackson Rainer is a board-certified clinical psychologist who practices with the Care and Counseling Center in Decatur, Georgia, helping people living with chronic illnesses. He consults with a variety of experts to answer a selection of readers’ questions in each issue of Pain-Free Living.

Have questions about living with and managing chronic pain? Email questions to [email protected]. Please put “PFL Q&A” in the subject line.

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