Friday, April 2, 2021

From Risk to Opportunity

If you've been in healthcare or IT for a while, you've probably heard about Risk Assessments.  And if you have been through a few of these, you might recall the process of:

  1. Identifying assets to protect
  2. Enumerating threats to those assets in a list of risks
  3. Assessing the likelihood of the risk happening
  4. Assessing the level of impact of the risk (i.e., how bad it would be if the threat occurred)
  5. Using the categories values from #3 and #4 to assess the risk level (to understand what needs to be mitigated) using something like the matrices below:

Several resources are available from HL7 and IHE to do these tasks, including the HL7 Security Cookbook and the the IHE Risk Management in Healthcare IT Whitepaper (from which the two images above were drawn).

But I'm not really here to talk about Risk Assessment.  I'm going to the other end of the spectrum to talk about how you can use this same framework to prioritize efforts for opportunities, and it works pretty much the same way.
  1. Identify the assets to capitalize on (assets being used very loosely here, it could include processes and skills that you are good at, as well as the usual notion of assets).
  2. Identify the value of those assets in a list of opportunities.
  3. Assessing the likelihood of the opportunity succeeding.
  4. Assessing the level of impact of the opportunity (e.g., ROI).
  5. Assessing the importance of the opportunity.
The same way a risk assessment helps to identify the risks to mitigate, an opportunity assessment can help you identify opportunities to explore further, and skip the ones which are of lower importance.  You could also replace "likelihood" with "cost", where cost is essentially a proxy for likelihood, but high cost is equivalent to low likelihood, and so you'd have to flip one axis of the grid.

The number of levels of opportunity (or risk for that matter) that one puts in the grid is really up to the organization performing the assessment, I'd recommend using at least 3 and no more than 5.

The benefit of using this framework for assessing opportunities is very similar to the befit for following it for risk assessments.  It puts a structure around the work that you are doing, and adds some degree of objectivity to the assessment process.  It still requires judgement (and that may be subjective), but the results will give you more insight and confidence in the outcomes.

For what it's worth, this isn't my idea.  I THINK I first heard about this from Gila Pyke about seven or eight years ago, probably over Sushi somewhere at an HL7 or IHE meeting.


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