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Bringing digital transformation to emergency preparedness

March 24, 2023
Business Affairs Emergency Medicine Health IT
Dave Sinkinson
By Dave Sinkinson

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are well-acquainted with emergency scenarios. On any given day, those that work in health systems treat patients effected by pandemics, severe weather, civil unrest, mass casualty incidents, and other crisis events. They are also grappling with the fallout from today’s well-documented mental health issues. Healthcare workers do an incredible job rendering care to all those who flock to hospital emergency rooms, urgent care facilities, and other medical facilities. And yet these unsung heroes are feeling less safe in their roles these days. In fact, a recent survey of 500 healthcare professionals including, doctors, nurses, technicians and administrators shows that 42% of healthcare workers have experienced a violent incident while simply trying to do their job.

The uptick in violence in the healthcare setting warrants scrutiny and action, and one of the best ways to implement positive safety changes is within the Hospital Incident Command system (HICS), the invaluable framework that has helped make the healthcare industry a safety-savvy sector.

While the emergency preparedness and response steps outlined in HICS are solid, the way health systems update and utilize the policies, workflows, and crisis communications found within HICS could use some attention. For example, considering the innovative times we live in, how is it possible that health systems still rely on outdated tools including paper manuals, phone tree lists, and legacy communication systems as part of their emergency management strategy? When crisis events are unfolding, seconds matter and these dated approaches result in a slow moving, rigid, and laborious incident command flow. Furthermore, manual processes don’t help healthcare safety practitioners with key components of HICS compliance such as quorums and incident reporting. In the healthcare environment, speed, efficiency and outcomes are critical. Shouldn’t that same level of scrutiny be given to a health system’s incident command process?

Transforming the preparation process
During the emergency preparedness process, laying out roles and responsibilities is important, but what happens when an actual incident occurs? Do staff have the resources they need to organize and act on their respective tasks? During the pre-planning phase, it’s acceptable to seek out hard copies of documents and unearth step by step task lists, but that’s a luxury not afforded to those in the thick of an emergency.

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