Emergency Preparedness: Epidemics, Pandemics, and Outbreak Response

April 28, 2020 | Aging Services Risk Management


From a systems perspective, pandemic preparedness, prevention, and response requires significant orchestration from all levels of the national health system. The interdependent functions of individuals, providers, organizations, and community, local, state and national—and even international—public health organizations make that orchestration necessary for optimal effectiveness.

In its broadest sense, effectiveness is dependent on the degree to which all stakeholders—not just those who work in healthcare—participate in and adhere to fact-based, evidence-based, and medically indicated practices. Therefore, the higher the degree of alignment in preparation, prevention, and response, the better the chance of improving outcomes and achieving overall objectives related to a pandemic management. Decisions made by one or a few individuals can have far-reaching effects in terms of exposure, risk, and even harm for others.

For healthcare provider organizations, complex challenges such as pandemic and outbreak response call for an enterprise risk management (ERM) approach, taking full advantage of the expertise and experience of the organization's various domains of operations (see Figure 1. Enterprise Risk Management). These situations require integration of most or all ERM domains to create care and service delivery environments that maintain the highest level of health and welfare for all stakeholder groups (e.g., persons served, families, staff, and visitors) while also slowing down or stopping the spread of infection. Pandemic and outbreak response-related policies and procedures that neglect to include care-critical domains might be less effective in preventing harm, reducing severity, and limiting the spread of infection than those that are fully integrated.

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