Everyone's a risk manager


From making everyone a risk manager to offering educational programs to aid risk managers’ development as leaders, Andrew Oppenberg has a busy year ahead as president of ASHRM. He told HRMR about the goals and challenges of the role.

Andrew Oppenberg has taken on the role of president of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM) at a time of great change for risk managers. From new health information technology (HIT) regulations to the acquisition of physician practices; from the simmering issue of workplace violence to changes in the way healthcare is funded, risk managers have a lot on their plates.

Undaunted, Oppenberg sees his time as president as an opportunity to help the society improve positive outcomes for patients by raising safety awareness in hospitals. He is clearly pleased to have the opportunity to make a difference.

“Serving as the 2013 ASHRM president is a chance for me to contribute to our noble profession of healthcare risk management and provide safe and trusted healthcare to our healthcare enterprises,” he says. “It is a dream come true which crowns my 25-plus years career in healthcare risk management and as an ASHRM member.

“As president of ASHRM, the membership has entrusted to me the responsibility for this year’s ASHRM theme ERM: Everyone is a Risk Manager—helping everyone in the healthcare enterprise have a positive effect on our patients’ safety by getting to zero serious safety events.”


The target of zero serious safety events may seem an ambitious one, but it’s only part of what Oppenberg aims to achieve. With the help of ASHRM’s board and membership, he aims to provide leadership and guidance in implementing ASHRM’s new vision, mission, and strategic plan.

Its vision is to be the leader in advancing safe and trusted healthcare through enterprise risk management (ERM), while its mission is to advance patient safety, reduce uncertainty and maximize value through management of risks across the healthcare enterprise.

ASHRM’s strategic plan can be divided into four initiatives and subsequent goals that will serve as a guide for its leaders, staff and members.

“These goals will assist ASHRM in reaching its full potential in bringing healthcare risk management and patient safety to the forefront of the healthcare community, assuring safe and trusted healthcare for everyone,” he says.

A key initiative is ERM, and the related goal is to facilitate effective decision-making in the healthcare industry through the application of ERM. Also on the list is patient safety, with the goal of advancing patient safety through a value-driven approach. The third goal is leadership—specifically, to be recognized as an influential leader in healthcare ERM.

Finally comes governance and operations: the aim is to have an effective governance and operational infrastructure to ensure necessary resources for execution of ASHRM’s strategic plan.

“In support of our new vision, mission and strategic plan, my focus is on ASHRM membership, our chapters, and our patients’ safety,” says Oppenberg. “My personal goals for ASHRM include fostering an enterprise-wide approach to risk management; providing risk managers with tools to achieve the goal of eliminating serious safety events; and offering educational programs to support risk managers’ growth as leaders.”


He also aims to promote ASHRM’s relationship with its chapter affiliations, of which there are dozens across the US and Canada, plus some as far afield as Chile, Indonesia and Puerto Rico.

Asked about the main challenges currently facing healthcare risk managers, Oppenberg cites the changes stemming from the Affordable Care Act, such as clinical integration and more physicians being employed by hospitals, as a leading area of concern.

“Other hot topics are non-payment for hospital-acquired conditions, recovery audit contractor reviews and implementation of electronic medical records through meaningful use,” he says. “These are uncertainties that healthcare risk managers must also prepare to deal with, not to mention the constant demonstration of risk management value to organizations.

“Combine these relatively new risks with our traditional management and investigation of serious safety events, workers’ compensation issues, litigation and claims management, as well as regulations, licensure and accreditation and a healthcare risk manager has a lot of interesting challenges to work through.”

Despite the complexities of his new role, Oppenberg says he is looking forward to representing ASHRM at local and state ASHRM-affiliated chapter events and other professional associations, and chairing the annual conference general sessions in Austin, Texas, in October.

“I also look forward to writing my president’s column in the award-winning Journal of Healthcare Risk Management, of which I was formerly an editor,” he says. “The bottom line is just living the dream as ASHRM’s 2013 president by ensuring Everyone’s a Risk Manager!”

Risk, ASHRM, risk managers, patient safety, educational programs