Not an 'if' but a 'when': Emergency preparedness lessons from COVID-19

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Not an 'if' but a 'when': Emergency preparedness lessons from COVID-19

September 28, 2020

Tips for preparing for the next pandemic
All healthcare organizations need to assess their COVID-19 response – whether it’s a hospital that has not been hit hard yet and may not have exercised its plans to the same extent as others, or a hospital that is still managing an active surge, or one that is still recovering from an earlier surge. No matter what your situation reflects, frontline clinicians should be involved in recovery discussions and contribute their unique vantage points. This will not only give C-suite decision makers an understanding of their experience, but also will advance their adoption of new procedures. Tested beyond their limits, clinicians and support staff need to know leadership is dedicated to evaluating gaps and successes to improve operations in the future and to better support and protect frontline workers.

As they are able, organizations should prepare for future outbreaks with these tips in mind:

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Make emergency management an active exercise
The pandemic has shown us the importance of vigilant EM planning. When viruses of the past have run their course, EM plans often go back on the shelf and aren’t revisited until the next crisis. This is not to say that organizations always need to have incident command readiness. However, aspects of an emergency command structure and communication should be a constant part of daily workflow and the risk of an outbreak should be a consideration in everyday meetings and reports. For example, assuring that incident command roles are assigned daily and distributing a daily briefing, such as an email, will go a long way in promoting readiness. Ultimately, all organizations should move ahead conservatively – watch the data and evaluate what new trends mean, plan out next steps as new information unfolds, and be flexible to scale up or down accordingly.

Increase resource management awareness
Rather than having supply chains fulfill the need at hand, hospitals should activate consistent supply streams, and review inventory so items don’t expire or go to waste. In regard to personal protective equipment (PPE), organizations should plan for renewable air-purifying equipment or ways to extend the life of items through UV sterilization. This is preferable to repeatedly dedicating time, fitting, and training to one type of PPE only to have it substituted for another. EM plans should forecast usage based on burn rate and increasing disease cases, as the R0 (transmissibility/probability rate) changes.

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