Risk Managers’ role crucial in acquisitions


Hospital risk managers need to be involved as early as possible in the process of acquiring physician practices in order to ensure their organization has a full understanding of the risks involved.

That is the view of Ann Gaffey, senior vice president of healthcare risk management at Sedgwick Claims Management Services, who believes that, in particular, they should focus on ensuring practice managers can successfully identify and address risks.

“The ideal stage to get risk managers involved is before a physician practice is even acquired,” she said. “We’re starting to see a little bit more of that, but it’s not as common as I know the risk managers would like it to be.

“What that does is it allows an opportunity to go in and make some decisions about the acquisition itself; how antiquated are their practices, are they up to date? It does help from an underwriting perspective to understand the risks that they might be bringing on. It helps the risk manager be a little more proactive and it helps get some systems in place sooner rather than later.”

Gaffey said that with some hospitals acquiring physician practices spread over 20 to 30 different locations and employing hundreds of physicians, risk managers often find they have a challenging task on their hands. “It’s new territory for a lot of people who are in risk management roles in hospitals,” she said.

Her big tip for easing the process is to start by focusing on the physician practice managers, ensuring they have an understanding of what risk looks like in an office practice setting.

“Go through the basic process of helping them identify what risks their patients are bringing, what risks they are exposed to because of the building that they’re in and what equipment they use. Help them understand what their needs and responsibilities are when they identify an event so that it can be mitigated early on. The person who touches everybody and every process in the office really is the practice manager, so it’s good to start with them.”

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