Report: Hospital Emergency Preparedness, Disaster Resilience and Collaboration
Though many hospitals have been shoring up emergency preparedness plans in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) emergency preparedness rule, a new report, A Framework for Healthcare Disaster Resilience: A View to the Future suggests that there is more work to be done to achieve hospital emergency preparedness. The report concludes a two-year study of disaster healthcare at US hospitals sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The report’s recommendations are reviewed in “US hospitals ill-equipped for large-scale disasters,” an article on FierceHealthcare. Author Matt Kuhrt notes that the investigators found hospitals to be well prepared to handle localized events that happen frequently, such as a bus crash or tornado, but are least prepared to handle catastrophic health events such as a pandemic or bioterror attack.
Recommendations from the report focus on four areas for improvement:
- Coordinating response to catastrophic health events at the federal level
- Fostering a culture of resilience to disasters among healthcare facilities
- Creating regional coalitions with a broader network of healthcare facilities and community partners
- Sharing knowledge and best practices through “geographically dispersed Disaster Resource Hospitals dedicated to serving as a resource for public health officials and other institutions as they engage in disaster preparation.”
Three of these four areas for improvement are based on a single competency: collaboration.
Emergency management collaboration for hospitals
What makes emergency management collaboration so challenging?
Covering a broad region
A large-scale disaster is likely to cover a large area. Responders and healthcare providers will be spread out geographically, and the circumstances may vary from place to place. One site may have available supplies but lack beds; another site may have bed space but lack transport. Available personnel or volunteers may need to be identified at several sites and then be picked up at a designated gathering point. A centralized communication site and resources databases will be critical to ensuring that human and personnel, equipment and supplies are located and mobilized efficiently.
Keeping information accurate and current
With phone calls, emails and texts streaming in from multiple sources, manual documentation is likely to lead to errors and information gaps. By the time the errors are corrected, the situation may have changed. Using a single collaboration platform makes it easier to aggregate all of the information into a complete master log. Updates to personnel in disparate locations can then be disseminated with a single message.
Maintaining flexibility in command as an event grows
Sometimes a disaster event starts small and then spreads through a region, across county or state lines. When that happens, reports will have to roll up to the agency taking charge, and the responsibilities of healthcare providers and other staff may change. An emergency management platform that supports integration and allows escalation of user privileges on the fly will simplify adding or shifting levels of command quickly.
Creating a culture of resilience to disasters
The recommendation to build a culture of resilience to disasters stands out among the Center’s recommendations, and it makes sense. As Kuhrt notes, “day-to-day stress levels causing burnout among healthcare staff … can leave hospitals vulnerable in a large-scale emergency.”
Fortunately, the tools that support better healthcare collaboration between organizations can also support better healthcare collaboration within a health system or hospital. A more agile workforce benefits from a hospital communication system that can locate and mobilize resources, streamline routine messaging, and maintain flexibility as needs change. Eliminating or minimizing the mundane tasks that constitute toil in everyday healthcare workflows has the potential to reduce burnout and help staff achieve the resiliency to respond effectively in a disaster.
LiveProcess Emergency Manager helps public agencies and healthcare facilities work as part of a coalition of emergency responders, so they can focus on action instead of logistics. Download the datasheet Emergency Manager for Healthcare Coalitions to learn more.
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