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1/2/2001

Unique Risk Management Project Gets Underway

Kate Traynor

A pilot study that started last December may help hospitals identify—and benefit from—the most effective risk management strategies.

The study, dubbed the claims data gathering project, was created by the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM), a personal membership group of Chicago-headquartered American Hospital Association. The Center for Performance Sciences Inc. (CPS), an outcomes research center in Elkridge, Md., was selected to manage the pilot study.

"The purpose behind the project," says CPS president Vahe A. Kazandjian, Ph.D., "is to design a system that collects information on risk management strategies in U.S. hospitals." From these strategies, he says, "we will establish a national repository…or a portfolio of different documented strategies in hospitals towards risk management."

Kazandjian describes the project as "a national first."

Some of the data CPS will collect, says Kazandjian, relates to "early warning" systems that examine how hospitals identify potential risks, as well as possible outcomes associated with these risks. Another important area that CPS will examine is communication between hospital departments and professional staff.

Noting the "recent revival of the medication-error topic," Kazandjian says that his company's project will look at medication errors but focus on examining the ways in which risk management strategies affect patients, hospital staff members, and even insurers.

As with a patient safety project under way in Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, confidentiality is a major cornerstone of ASHRM's risk management study.

"ASHRM," says Kazandjian, "does not see the data." The hospitals that participate in the voluntary reporting project are "willing to share with others their experiences as long as everything is kept anonymous and confidential." CPS, says Kazandjian, is an "impartial third party," working as a group of experts that collects the data, designs the tools, performs the analysis, and reports its findings to ASHRM.

According to Kazandjian, 200 hospitals initially expressed "solid interest" in the project. The 55 hospitals chosen to participate in the project were "ready to go," with the necessary data management tools and "internal culture" already in place.

Kazandjian expects to receive his first batch of data by Jan. 15 and continue to collect data for six months. "After the first six months of pilot testing, we are going to…regroup and look at the information," he says.

Ultimately, says Kazandjian, the data will be used to identify quality indicators—real tools that hospital risk managers can use as benchmarks of their institution's performance.