Healthcare Emergency Preparedness: Is the Facility Ready?

June 1, 2002 | Health System Risk Management


This article explores lessons presented by the speakers at ECRI's February 20, 2002, teleconference, "Disaster Readiness: Addressing Healthcare Technology Needs." The speakers learned these lessons through their experiences responding to all types of emergencies, from floods to civil disturbances to the September 11 terrorist attacks. The lessons presented here are some of those that have received less attention in the literature since September 11, but are valuable and practical nonetheless.

Risk management concerns in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks have run the predictable range of topics, from confidentiality issues in patient tracking to accepting and credentialing clinical volunteers, from the applicability of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) during bioterrorist emergencies to reaching out to other healthcare facilities to help create community emergency response plans. Many of these issues are addressed in the February 2002 Risk Management Reporter and Risk Analyses and other resources included in the Healthcare Risk Control (HRC) System.

However, on top of their normal range of concerns, risk managers must also be aware of emergency preparedness as it relates to their facilities' medical device and equipment supplies, utilities, and other concerns loosely grouped together as "facilities and technology issues." A summary of these lessons is included in Summary: Teleconference Lessons.

Facilities and technology issues are both equipment- and personnel-related, each requiring planning and preparation before emergencies and adaptability during emergencies. Some may seem familiar to risk managers, such as insurance concerns related to damaged medical devices. Others, like ensuring appropriate particulate-air filtration around emergency generators, may seem a world away from traditional risk management. However, each presents a risk—be it a liability risk, a regulatory risk, or a patient care risk—that must be managed. Even if risk managers are not directly responsible for some areas, they need...

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