How Hospital Emergency Preparedness Is EvolvingHow Hospital Emergency Preparedness Is EvolvingGiphy GIFGiphy GIF

How Hospital Emergency Preparedness Is Evolving

Over the past nearly-three years, “We saw widespread burnout of staff trying to go above and beyond, every single day. That’s not sustainable—it’s too overwhelming,” he says.
“That’s why we’re looking at what to do now, because COVID is still a threat, and now we’re looking at issues like monkeypox and polio. Everyone wonders: What’s next?”
1. The next epidemic
“No one believes we’re past current and future threats when it comes to epidemics and pandemics,” says Eric Alberts, senior director of emergency preparedness at Orlando Health in Florida.
“Every hospital is still on high alert when it comes to trying to anticipate what’s next.”
4. Cyber threats
According to AAMC, this type of cyberattack spiked during the pandemic, with one estimate noting that about 1 in 3 health-care organizations globally were hit by ransomware in 2020.
These incidents don’t just put organizations at risk—they can also affect patient care. Patient appointments couldn’t be scheduled, and most surgeries had to be delayed.
5. Limited internal resources
“Most hospitals already work on thin margins, and those are contracting as insurers reduce coverage,” he says.
“Financially and organizationally, we’re in a tight and difficult place.” Plus, he points out, the average tenure of a hospital CEO is about 18 months.
“So you tend to have turnover in leadership, and that can reset all emergency preparedness plans.”
How hospitals step up
Although the top threats facing hospitals might sound unrelated—cyber threats and hurricanes don’t seem to have much ...
...overlap, for example—they’re connected in part because of the way they need to be dealt with, Duroseau says.
Planning for the worst-case scenario; conducting training drills for these possibilities; boosting collaboration inside and outside the hospital; and renovating with climate change in mind.
Many hospitals utilize several main strategies
For instance, Providence Saint John’s Health Center regularly executes unplanned drills for active-shooter situations, which help ensure that staff can seal off parts of the hospital and lock down within minutes.
“These types of drills let us see where the gaps are with process and staffing,” Duroseau says.
“That’s particularly important during times of high staff turnover, which we experienced over COVID.”
“It’s hard to play offense on a cyber situation,” he says.
“At least we can train people to handle downtime disruptions in a way that protects patients. In general, we all know the areas ...
...of vulnerability we have with every kind of threat, and there’s only so much we can do to counter that. But we can try.”
Another crucial aspect for threat management is collaborating with local and national services like fire departments, ... enforcement, the state department of health, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Alberts says.
“If you take threats seriously, there’s a lot you can do ahead of time if you plan in advance,” he adds.
“Coordination internally and with these external stakeholders truly helps us better prepare for and respond to crises of all types and ...
...sizes. Having the right people in the right place at the right time is a big factor for any hospital system’s response to a threat.”
For instance, Lenox Hill now works closely with its software providers to ensure there are multiple levels of electronic security protections in place.
“We never used to ask our technology vendors what they have built in for security—we only wanted to know about functionality overall,” Duroseau says.
“Now, it’s the first thing we consider when [evaluating] a new tech contract.”
“This is an ongoing issue we’re continually trying to better understand, because the effects of climate change will continue to be a major threat,” Alberts says.
“Hurricane Ian showed everyone how much rainfall there can be in such a short amount of time, giving us all a great opportunity to leverage this data for future efforts.”
Looking ahead
“Despite everything that’s happened in the past two years, we know we’re doing amazing and uplifting work,” Kino says.
“Even on rough days, we’re still a team, and deep down, we love our jobs—that’s why we’re here. It’s pretty incredible to look back and see what we’ve accomplished through a pandemic, ...
...widespread burnout, mass-casualty events, and climate change. We found a way, and I think that’s what is fueling every hospital right now: We know we’ll always find a way.”