​​​Health care businesses have had to contend with several unique challenges in recent years. From increasing costs and patient needs, to staffing challenges and consolidations, there are plenty of risks keeping owners and administrators up at night.

 And while insurance is there to protect your business when you need it most, you can lower your costs by reducing your risks ahead of time. Here are three trends facing the industry in 2023, and ways you can reduce the risk to your employees, residents, business, and bottom line.

Trend 1: An Increase in Injury Risk due to Labor Shortages and Job Demands

Nursing and staff shortages are widespread across all sectors of the health care industry. A 2017 projection by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggested that businesses would need 3.6 million registered nurses by the year 2030. Now, as more workers have retired and left the profession, there's even greater stress on businesses to meet workforce needs.

With fewer staff available—and new, less experienced workers joining your team—employees may feel increased pressure to complete a higher volume of work, which can lead to fatigue and injury. In the health care industry, many injuries often involve strains from lifting or turning patients, slips and falls on facility floors, and needlesticks from treating patients.

How it affects your business: While most states require businesses to have workers' compensation insurance to cover medical expenses, your organization is still responsible for many of the direct and indirect costs following an injury.

That's why it's important to re-evaluate your safety program and reduce injuries throughout your facilities. While it's best to define a plan specific to your organization, the following steps may serve as helpful reminders:

  • ​Provide frequent safety training to both new and current employees.
  • Educate your team on safe patient handling.
  • Supply equipment to assist workers with lifting, moving, and transporting patients.
  • Maintain walkways and reduce clutter around your facility.
  • Prevent entry near wet floors.
  • Create a modified return-to-work program for injured employees.

Trend 2: An Increase in Distracted Driving and the Rising Costs of Litigation

The number of vehicles on the road has increased, and many drivers have adopted unsafe driving habits. This puts everyone on the road at risk, including your business, drivers, and those they're transporting.

In fact, many care centers face the added challenge of relying on multi-passenger shuttles, which can increase your liability if your drivers are involved in an accident transporting multiple people.

With the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) attributing over 324,000 injuries to distracted driving, it's an issue that requires your attention.

How it affects your business: Like health care workers, it can be difficult to find experienced, qualified drivers to meet your transportation needs. But don't relax your hiring standards. Protect your business—and those who rely on it—by reviewing motor vehicle reports prior to hiring new drivers.

It's also crucial to provide ongoing training to existing drivers regardless of their age or experience. Your drivers often have the added responsibility of helping passengers safely enter and exit vehicles. It's important to educate them on proper ingress and egress procedures. This includes providing ramps, lift devices, and adequate assistance to those who may have accessibility needs.

And while your state may require commercial auto liability insurance, talk with your broker or agent to confirm you have enough coverage to account for the higher cost of repairing vehicles. If your health care facility places an added emphasis on safety, your insurer may even recommend loss-sensitive coverages to help you lower your upfront premiums.

Trend 3: Consolidations and Their Influence on Risk Management Programs

The health care industry is undergoing a significant transformation as more care businesses merge to reduce overhead expenses and improve efficiency. Although there are several benefits that may result from these changes, businesses may see several unintended consequences to their risk management programs.

If your organization has been involved in a recent consolidation—or it's a future possibility—your policies and procedures could have inconsistencies or gaps.

How it affects your business: The advice here is simple, but the preparation is not. You'll need to navigate the challenges of combining two programs. Remember, consolidation involves merging workforces, too. Some employees may feel apprehensive about changes to your risk management program, while others may struggle to adopt new methods.

Once you've updated your risk management program, you'll need to gain buy-in across your organization. This should involve clear communication and frequent training with employees to help them understand the purpose of the program and the role they play.

Looking Ahead

Jeff ColeIf 2022 was any indication, the health care industry will continue to see significant changes in 2023—and with those changes will come emerging risks. The most successful health care facilities will be those that adapt and prioritize safety.

Remember, these trends are only a starting point for examining your risk management programs. By staying informed and being proactive, you can continue to meet the challenges that await, and still provide the quality care that others rely on you for.

Jeff Cole is assistant vice president of national accounts for Sentry Insurance.​