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Perfect Planning for the Perfect Storm: How Can Healthcare Be Prepared?

With the brunt of the massive Hurricane Michael bearing down on the Florida Panhandle in 2018, several of the region’s hospitals were forced to evacuate patients. In the midst of these efforts, with windows exploding and rooftops blowing off, new patients arrived with various injuries associated with the storm. Calling it a perfect storm for disaster would be an understatement.

According to FEMA, four Florida hospitals and 11 nursing homes had to be closed in Florida during Hurricane Michael. In Georgia and Florida, dozens of hospitals, nursing homes, and medical facilities lost power and used generators to continue operations.

With hurricane season starting June 1 and running through the end of November, you only have to look at the past two years to be reminded how essential hospitals and healthcare organizations have been to so many communities affected by some of the most devastating and costly hurricanes in U.S. history. Chances are, the need will be great this year as well.

When disasters or critical incidents occur, healthcare organizations and hospitals have to be prepared to provide ongoing care to current patients and be ready for an influx of new patients, while also protecting the lives of staff, patients, and others at their facilities.

Even during times of relative calm, many hospitals are operating at high capacity with limited resources. Natural disasters or other critical incidents cause things to get even more chaotic. Thorough preparation, along with an effective platform to maintain situational awareness, can help maintain a safe environment for everyone involved.

Everyday Use of Situational Awareness Platforms for Better Preparedness

Among many benefits to a hospital or healthcare facility, an effective critical incident platform is important in streamlining daily operations, as well as preparing for, responding to, and recovering from natural and human-caused disasters in terms of:

Operations – Coordinate and control day-to-day operations to improve workforce efficiency, support of quality management, and enhancement of overall productivity

  • Automate workflows and procedural checklists to clarify expectations and document completion
  • Record operational actions and outcomes in digital logs to extract data, provide insight, and reveal trends
  • Encourage employee accountability through information sharing and interactive engagement

Preparedness – Make sure your organization is prepared and better able to support regulatory compliance by automating preparation procedures and providing a more accurate common operating picture

  • Enhance readiness with vulnerability scoring, predictive analytics, exercise facilitation, and training compliance.
  • Adapt standard or develop custom incident action plans that support regulatory compliance
  • Promote precise patient and emergency vehicle tracking and ongoing monitoring of emergency staff, facilities, and supplies

Awareness – Optimize situational awareness with real-time communications to effectively interact with healthcare staff, patients, and families

  • Implement 24/7 threat monitoring with automated alerts based on programmable triggers and thresholds such as resource shortages, capacity limits, and outages
  • Automate two-way public and informational communications to inform and instruct staff, patients, family, and residents in the healthcare system and surrounding areas
  • Provide peace of mind for patients and family members with notifications containing details and tailored instructions

Response – Coordinate an effective response by accelerating action with predefined tasks, valuable insight, and real-time updates that provide critical information within the healthcare ecosystem

  • Improve tracking to more effectively care for critical patients, such as stroke and STEMI patients, and support family reunification efforts
  • Enhance secure interoperability and the coordination of mutual aid across local, state, and regional facilities by providing greater visibility into resource location and availability for mutual aid
  • Monitor the staging, response, and location of ground and air transportation, including ambulance services, fire departments, and public safety agencies

Recovery – Streamline recovery from physical and technological disruptions while simultaneously meeting compliance and government requirements for reimbursement

  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of established workflows; assign responsibility to refine and rectify processes accordingly
  • Evaluate response procedures, resource utilization, and recovery costs against KPIs and business continuity plans
  • Auto-populate forms and reports to facilitate completion and satisfy compliance requirements, and at the same time, support continual improvement

What’s Your Plan?

So, the question is, Is your healthcare institution ready when disaster strikes? Do you have a critical incident platform that can accommodate your operations both on a day-to-day operational basis as well as during a disaster? When was the last time your Critical Incident Management plan was evaluated?

You never know when disaster might strike your community, whether it’s a natural or man-made critical incident. Taking the right steps toward readiness can help maintain operations in routine operations or in the worst of times – and potentially save the lives of patients, staff, and people in your community.

For tips on Critical Incident Planning, check out our eBook – What’s Your Plan? – 5 Steps for Emergency Preparedness.

In our eBook you’ll learn:

  • How to improve communications to respond faster and operate efficiently and effectively in a critical incident
  • What is a common operating picture and why it is important to your healthcare facility or hospital
  • What do you need in an emergency management platform to increase your situational awareness
  • How drills and exercises can improve your critical incident plan

Start assessing your Critical Incident Planning today.

whats your plan 5 steps for emergency preparedness

Written by

Akshay Birla

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