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In healthcare, patient safety has received substantial attention and, in turn, a number of approaches to managing safety have been adopted from other high-risk industries. One of these has been risk assessment, predominantly through the use of risk matrices. However, while other industries have criticized the design and use of these risk matrices, the applicability of such criticism has not been investigated formally in healthcare. This study examines risk matrices as used in acute hospitals in England and the guidance provided for their use. It investigates the applicability of criticisms of risk matrices from outside healthcare through a document analysis of the risk assessment policies, procedures, and strategies used in English hospitals. The findings reveal that there is a large variety of risk matrices used, where the design of some might increase the chance of risk misprioritization. Additionally, findings show that hospitals may provide insufficient guidance on how to use risk matrices as well as what to do in response to the existing criticisms of risk matrices. Consequently, this is likely to lead to variation in the quality of risk assessment and in the subsequent deployment of resources to manage the assessed risk. Finally, the article outlines ways in which hospitals could use risk matrices more effectively.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Risk analysis : an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis
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