There’s a person in the higher reaches of every healthcare organization that is charged with coordinating the institution’s safety, financial health, record-keeping policy, regulatory affairs, HIPAA compliance, investments, and maybe even the temperature of the hot water. That multitasking individual is the risk manager, and that person is someone you really ought to know.

f01a.gif (11432 bytes)The healthcare industry is a risky business. Things go wrong. Equipment breaks down. Murphy’s Law rules. And it is often the biomed tech who has to fix up the mess. But if this job is difficult, consider the job of the hospital’s risk manager. This individual not only has to predict what will go wrong before it actually does, but must ensure that when things do fail, both the patient and the hospital suffer minimal loss.

While some biomedical technicians may believe that the hospital risk manager is nothing more than an administrator who buys insurance, the position is, in reality, much more complicated and much more important to the healthcare industry. Hospital risk managers are highly trained professionals who help keep the institution running efficiently while keeping costs down. They form an important part of the healthcare team, and rely on the cooperation and support of all hospital employees — including biomed techs.

An understanding of who risk managers are and what they do can help the biomedical engineering and risk management departments work together more effectively. This cooperation can help both departments do a better job. In the final analysis, both the “techies” and the statisticians are speaking the same language.

“Risk managers play key roles in the delivery of patient-centered health care,” said Monica Berry, president of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management and chief risk officer at the Rockford Health System in Rockford, Ill. “Especially as the healthcare industry faces increasingly complex concerns — patient safety, regulatory compliance, insurance issues, emergency preparedness — there is a vital need for professionals who understand how these issues can impact patients as well as caregivers.”

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