Special report: Planning for the unlikely

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | August 28, 2013
From the August 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


Such challenges aren’t the norm for weather-related events, which typically give hospitals some advance notice. In the face of such chaos, hospitals have to make measured choices around their business continuity plans. “We need to determine what needs to remain open for patient safety versus the things we can do without over a period of time that doesn’t impact patient safety,” says Barry Wante, director of emergency management at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Don’t overlook the small stuff
One of the biggest challenges hospital preparedness professionals face is making sure the lines of communication continue to stay open after the adrenaline rush of the emergency is over.

For instance, NYU’s Stevens cautions hospitals to follow up after every incident and develop action reports for improvement plans. “They’re not lessons learned unless you’ve done something with what you’ve learned,” she says.



Other experts emphasize the importance of capitalizing on each event to raise internal awareness. Small, seemingly insignificant tasks like mass emails, monthly agenda reminders and quick, informal assignments can make a big difference in the end.

“We tend to think of exercises as always big and complex, but one of the things we learned in Sandy is we got a lot of lessons out of the evacuation drills we had done that were much more simple,” says Stevens. For example, she recommends hospitals have their staff walk down their stairwells and acquaint themselves with other units to see what they’re like. Or, have staff walk down nine flights of stairs to see whether it’s doable for them. When the time comes to put emergency plans into action, the staff will have a better handle on the situation simply because they’re more familiar with their surroundings.

“It doesn’t have to be lights and hazmat suits and high maintenance tools only. Plain old awareness can go a long way in helping us as an organization and as individuals better,” says Continuum Partners’ Cagliuso.

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