CMS Emergency Preparedness for Healthcare Coalitions

by | Aug 25, 2017

Disasters that cross regional boundaries were a primary driver for updates to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) emergency preparedness rule. As part of its initial statement of purpose, CMS named widespread natural and manmade disasters — ranging from hurricanes and flooding to flu pandemics and terrorist attacks — as emergencies that challenged the preparedness of communities to maintain continuity of healthcare services. For example, a Department of Health and Human Services study of emergency response to Superstorm Sandy found that “insufficient community-wide coordination” was a common thread through the various challenges identified by healthcare facilities.

CMS emergency preparedness regulations encourage healthcare coalitions

In response to concerns like these, CMS asked healthcare facilities to include community-focused planning in each element of its emergency preparedness regulations:

  • Risk assessment must include a consideration of potential arrangements with other facilities, providers, supplies and other entities.
  • Policies and procedures must include a process for taking in patients from other facilities.
  • The communication plan must include means of communicating both needs and the ability to provide assistance and accept additional patients.
  • Training and testing programs must include a full-scale community drill to test their plans at least annually.

More generally, all CMS-compliant emergency preparedness plans must include a process for ensuring cooperation and collaboration with local, tribal, regional, state or federal emergency preparedness officials. In addition, a facility must document its efforts to communicate with these officials and participation in any cooperative efforts. Although the CMS emergency preparedness regulations don’t require facilities to join a formal healthcare coalition, participation is repeatedly encouraged throughout the final rule.

3 critical components of effective healthcare coalitions

As your healthcare facility connects with other healthcare facilities and with local, regional, and state emergency management agencies to form or strengthen a healthcare coalition, keep in mind these three elements of emergency preparedness that a healthcare coalition should foster, and the means available to support your coalition:

Situational awareness

The larger the regional area covered, the more complicated situational awareness becomes. When a large county or metro area depends on phone banks and significant personnel to collect, collate and disseminate information, gathering a full picture of the situation can take hours — and by that time the situation may have changed dramatically. Keeping up with situational awareness can become even more challenging when management of an emergency escalates, for example from the local to the state level. The ability to roll up reports quickly for a larger-scale response is crucial.

Mobilizing resources

Status reports covering bed capacity, staffing levels, and inventory on hand help emergency managers to ensure continuity of care and to prevent a single facility from being overwhelmed by new patients it cannot care for. Assigning resources appropriately — whether that means medical supplies or personnel with specific certifications — depends on an up-to-date view of who and what is available and the availability of transportation in multiple locations.

Documenting emergency management activities and outcomes

During an emergency preparedness drill or actual disaster event, getting the message out and taking appropriate actions are critical. When the event concludes, an accurate event log is essential for evaluating performance and making required updates to the emergency plan. Aggregating communications and actions from disparate facilities into a unified report can be a complex, time-consuming procedure prone to errors and gaps.

A single platform makes emergency preparedness simpler, more flexible

For healthcare and emergency management coalitions, working on a single communications platform can overcome many of these challenges, while also reducing errors that occur when information has to pass through many hands. A coalition unified on a single communication solution can realize benefits across the spectrum of planning, mobilizing, and documenting, using a variety of tools:

  • An emergency management system with mass notification tools can make information sharing nearly instantaneous — and save valuable human resources.
  • An inventory tracker supports efficient mobilization and post-event accounting of resources funded or monitored by federal, state, or district emergency management agencies.
  • A detailed, searchable personnel database makes it easier to identify individuals with the necessary cross-training, certifications or licenses to serve in alternate capacities or travel quickly to alternate care delivery sites.
  • A multi-level communication tool can combine one-to-one conversations between facilities or departments with individual reports and mass notifications to create a complete, accurate master log.

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What’s next?

Learn more about how a single-platform emergency management solution can help healthcare coalitions communicate and act together more effectively. The case study, Preparing for Regional Collaboration in an Emergency: Connecting a Coalition of Healthcare Facilities, will show you how an emergency management department (EMD) has successfully used LiveProcess Emergency Manager for better coordination and collaboration with its regional healthcare coalition.

Read the LiveProcess Emergency Manager for Healthcare Coalitions datasheet.

Learn how LiveProcess helps hospitals, health systems, and healthcare coalitions prepare for disasters

See how LiveProcess can help your healthcare organization across all phases of emergency management, including planning, mobilization, coordination & collaboration, and tracking

This post is part of a series on achieving compliance with the CMS emergency preparedness rule. If you’ve missed any part of the series, I encourage you to explore the following:

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Image credit: Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization

terry-zysk-100x100Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.