Risk Management Tools & Resources


15 Essential Risk Management Strategies for General Surgeons

Laura M. Cascella, MA, CPHRM

15 Essential Risk Management Strategies for General Surgeons

General surgeons face various risks in day-to-day practice. Adverse outcomes related to surgical treatment, diagnosis, and medical treatment can result from a variety of factors, including issues with technical competency, clinical judgment, communication, documentation, and more. The following list offers 15 essential strategies to help general surgeons mitigate risks and enhance patient safety.

  1. Participate in ongoing performance improvement opportunities to enhance technical surgical skills and ensure competency (e.g., mentoring, continuing education, and ongoing practice performance evaluation).
  2. Use evidence-based guidelines and clinical pathways to standardize processes, improve efficiency, and support quality care.
  3. Consider using decision support systems, consultations, and group decision-making to support clinical reasoning and avoid errors in clinical judgment.
  4. Implement protocols for team-based communication, including protocols for care transitions, telephone triage, and communication with radiology providers regarding incidental findings on diagnostic studies.
  5. Communicate adequate, clear, and appropriate information to patients. Conduct thorough informed consent discussions, provide patient education, and encourage patients to participate in their care.
  6. Use a technique — such as teach-back — to gauge patient understanding, reduce the risk of miscommunication, and support patient adherence to care plans.
  7. Perform complete patient assessments and ensure timely ordering of tests and consults to prevent problems associated with ruling out or documenting abnormal findings.
  8. Review patient selection criteria for each procedure, reconcile patient medications, and ensure that all appropriate health information is available in patients’ health records.
  9. Verify that all necessary equipment and supplies are available prior to the start of each procedure.
  10. Participate in surgical team timeouts prior to commencement of surgical procedures. Encourage “speaking up” behaviors to address potential safety issues.
  11. Use safety precautions throughout each procedure, such as proper patient positioning, infection control best practices, and surgical item counts.
  12. Following surgical procedures, hold team debriefing/huddle sessions to identify opportunities for improvement.
  13. Document a complete, concise, and accurate operative report the same day as each procedure.
  14. Maintain a consistent assessment process following procedures, and evaluate patients against established discharge criteria prior to releasing them.
  15. Document all instances of patient nonadherence as they occur using objective information, and document any follow-up education provided to the patient or caregiver to address nonadherence.

To learn more about surgical risks and strategies to prevent them, see the following MedPro resources:

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