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Disaster Preparedness: Strategies for Managing the Unexpected

White Papers

Communities nationwide face an ever-increasing risk of natural and man-made disasters, making it imperative for hospitals to identify strategic disaster response plans.

This white paper looks through the lens of three events in 2017 to discuss strategies we utilized to prepare and respond to disasters affecting the hospitals we serve. We provide advice and lessons learned to help hospital leaders evaluate their clinical outsourcing partners’ readiness to serve patients and support their hospitals when disaster strikes.

The Joint Commission requires that all hospitals maintain detailed disaster response plans that outline actions needed to navigate incidents such as fires or snowstorms that could impact the facility’s infrastructure and ability to deliver care. These detailed plans must include strategies to handle situations resulting in power failure, loss of communication systems, and other impediments to normal operations. Regular drills allow facilities to simulate various disaster scenarios, practice their response and adjust their plans as needed.

As an example, consider that more than 60 percent of hospitals outsource their emergency department care to a third party and that the emergency department is the de facto “front door” of the hospital. During a mass casualty event, major storm or other disaster, the emergency department will likely become overwhelmed with casualties. As hospitals increasingly partner with third-party physician organizations to manage and staff numerous clinical services, hospital leaders must have confidence that their partners are prepared to respond to specific disasters.

According to a recent survey of emergency department doctors by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the vast majority of respondents said their emergency departments could not handle a surge of patients from a natural or human-caused disaster, and fewer than half said their hospital was only “somewhat” prepared.

Based on the ACEP survey results, hospital leaders may be wise to analyze the emergency preparedness of their clinical outsourcing partners in all outsourced departments (e.g., emergency medicine, hospital medicine, critical care, and anesthesia). Are your contracted physician groups ready to work closely within the hospital’s disaster response framework? What measures do they have in place to ensure adequate clinician staffing in anticipation of, during, and after a disaster? How would they manage a sudden influx of patients? What, if any, national resources and disaster response expertise can they offer to augment the hospital’s efforts?

To read the full white paper, please download below.