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The risks facing your practice and how to avoid them (Part 2)

Posted by Matt Connor on 10 November 2016
The risks facing your practice and how to avoid them (Part 2)

In my last post, I addressed the topic of risk management and, specifically, issues relating to staff and revenue. In order to run a successful medical practice, it's important business owners understand the risks they face and adopt processes to mitigate them.

In a second article on this topic, I'd like to address three further risk-management issues I often see clients face. These relate to IT, occupational health and safety, and vicarious liability.

IT risk management

IT plays a critical role in supporting medical practices, where risks include hardware and software failure, human error, viruses and malicious attacks. There are a few things every practice can do to mitigate these risks:

1. Ensure your surgery maintains up-to-date anti-virus and spam software. Regular software updates are essential, as they protect against ever-changing viruses and security breaches. Be proactive and change software if you find a better product.
2. Have a reliable IT support team that takes an interest in your business and gives regular advice. A good IT support team will be proactive in advising you to spend money on worthwhile upgrades.
3. Invest money in good backup infrastructure to secure data and enable business continuity.
4. Ensure staff members understand IT network risk factors, and will actively work to keep your medical practice's data safe. One inadvertent mouse click can shut down an entire network, and training is available to help your frontline staff manage these risks.

Workplace health and safety

Safety is an important responsibility of the practice owner. Workplace-related injuries and illnesses cause suffering and are costly. As such, business owners need to follow and apply state and federal workplace health and safety legislation. Common risks in healthcare include accidents due to slips, trips and falls; ergonomic design of the workplace; stress; and biological and chemical hazards.

Business owners and practice managers can take these steps:

1. Identify and assess potential hazards and implement procedures that manage or eliminate these.
2. Implement a health and safety policy and be sure to provide information to all staff to ensure good practice. Here are the standards as set out by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
3. Ensure you have up-to-date workers compensation insurance.
 

Vicarious liability

As a medical practice owner, you are held responsible for the actions of your staff members. Common risks associated with staff include clinical negligence, unethical behaviour and breach of confidentiality (Avant provides a useful Medico-Legal Checklist for Physicians).

To illustrate, I had a client whose administrative staff inadvertently provided clinical advice over the phone. This is inadmissible and the staff members involved were reprimanded accordingly. However, it demonstrates that each staff member must understand their role and responsibilities within the team - as well as their supervisors' roles. In the case of this medico-legal risk, the practice followed up directly with the patient to ensure they knew the real facts.

It's vital that practice owners understand these risks and put strategies in place to manage them by following procedures whereby:

1. Staff members are trained and competent at procedures.
2. Employees are properly supervised during medical procedures.
3. Appropriate indemnity insurance policies are in place for staff.
4. Staff members understand and sign employment contracts and confidentiality agreements.
5. Training is provided on key policies and procedures so staff members across the team understand what behaviours are required.

Conclusion

Every medical practice owner faces unique challenges in running a surgery, but we hope these two guides increase awareness of some of the most common risks medical professionals encounter.

If you'd like to find out more about our specialist advisory services and how we assist medical professionals and practice owners to achieve the best business and tax outcomes, please contact our Brisbane-based team on (07) 3363 5800.

Author: Matt Connor
Tags: Staffing IT risk Workplace health and safety Vicarious liability Risk management

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