Understanding the risks you face as an optometrist can help you be more prepared when things go wrong.

There will always be some risk associated with operating your practice, but with the right steps, you can minimize the likelihood of a serious accident or liability lawsuit and protect the safety of your employees and patients.

By developing a risk management plan at your practice, you can better protect your employees and patients from harm and shield your business from associated costs.

Risk Management Plan Fundamentals

Successfully developing a risk management plan is all about thinking ahead. By being proactive, you won’t be caught off guard by the unexpected. You can demonstrate good leadership by developing a plan that addresses the specific risks of your practice.

All successful risk management plans start with 4 key fundamentals:

  1. Reasons and objectives: State the reasons for developing the plan and your objectives to determine the ideal depth and scope for your plan.
  2. Policy statement: Write a policy statement you can share with your employees that outlines plan objectives and explains the goals for a successful plan.
  3. Assignment of responsibilities: Assign responsibilities to your employees, making sure everyone can get involved and have a role to play in the plan’s success.
  4. Plan for communication: Put a system in place that allows for quick and easy communication between you and your employees, monitoring and making improvements to it as needed.


Important Plan Elements for Optometrists

Use your plan fundamentals as a foundation to support the development of your risk management plan. Keep in mind that a successful plan is built over time. New elements can be added as needed and past policies can be adjusted for better results.

For optometry practices, these 7 plan elements have been shown to lead to better safety and fewer claims and accidents:

  1. Patient health and safety: Because patients are your top priority, review your diagnosis and treatment protocols to ensure you meet all current guidelines and requirements.
  2. Internal audit: Conduct periodic random audits of 5–10 patient records, making sure documentation and billing match and that policies and procedures were properly followed.
  3. HIPAA privacy and security: Ensure privacy policies and procedures are established, documented and followed and that needed technical security safeguards are in place.
  4. Training: Implement a program to provide initial and ongoing training for all personnel.
  5. Facilities and equipment: Calibrate and maintain equipment as needed, with cords kept out of the way. Regularly check facility floors and walkways for slip and trip hazards such as damaged tiles or clutter.
  6. Accident reporting, investigation and analysis: Create a system to ensure all accidents and injuries are reported immediately, promptly investigated to uncover facts and causes, and analyzed so that corrective actions can be taken.
  7. Emergency preparedness: Designate procedures to follow for first-aid, treatment of serious injuries, building fires, workplace violence and natural disasters.


Five Strategies for Reducing the Risk to Your Practice

Practices like yours face unique risks frequently associated with the health care industry. Your risk management plan should address these added business risks. Here are 5 simple strategies you can implement to reduce your risk:

  1. Don’t rush hiring: Pre-screen candidates and conduct one or two rounds of interviews to ensure a good fit.
  2. Minimize slip and trip accidents: Keep floors free of hazards and clutter. Reduce risk by checking for proper cord storage, clear foot-traffic areas and consistent wet floor sign usage. Get rid of any damaged or unstable seating.
  3. Implement administrative safeguards: Ensure your staff are trained in health, privacy and safety protocols and consistently adhere to all policies and procedures at the practice.
  4. Manage weather injury risks: Develop severe weather plans for storms. Inspect the property after a storm and remove any tree limbs or trash. Remove snow and treat walkways and parking lots for ice. Hire licensed and insured maintenance and removal services and have the contract reviewed by your legal counsel. Use wet floor signs and keep floors inside clean and dry when weather is wet or icy outside.
  5. Ensure cyber safety: Make sure all patient information is protected by technical, administrative and physical security measures that meet or exceed HIPAA requirements.

For more information about establishing a risk management program for your practice, contact Lockton Affinity. Ensure your optometry practice is fully protected against the unique risks you face with coverage from AOA Insurance Alliance, administered by Lockton Affinity.