The Impact on Healthcare as Disasters Occur with Greater Frequency

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Whether man-made or natural, disasters seem to be occurring much more often. In a webinar based on her article, 10 Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2019, Robin L. Rose, MBA , VP, Healthcare Resource Group, HealthStream was joined by HealthStream’s Jim Reeves, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, in a discussion about how healthcare organizations must be even more prepared for the unexpected.

It Is Necessary to Always Be Prepared

Healthcare is seeing the impact as natural disasters and manmade emergencies are happening far more often than in the past. Rose offers that “We’re seeing an increase in these events—2017 was the most expensive year on record, costing at least $306 billion on these phenomena.” She discusses several examples:

  • Hurricane Harvey made affected healthcare organizations worry about getting employees in and out to provide care. And what if more flooding made it suddenly impossible to provide care? Rose offers that one organization realized the need to “have regional centers where their employees could board their pets.” Who would ever have thought of that? By the time Hurricane Harvey was over in Houston, some hospitals were bringing in physicians from TeamHealth in Seattle to cover this disaster.
  • For the Las Vegas shooting event, Sunrise Medical Center took the majority of the gunshot wounds. In an interview the medical director shared that for Sunrise, “100 physicians rushed to the hospital, [as well as] more than 200 nurses, clinicians, and support staff people… to discharge over 100 patients right away so that there was a bed for everybody.” With the number of surgeries required in a short time period, that hospital outperformed many combat zone surgical departments. Rose offers, “If you worked in that hospital, odds are very high you’ve got some type of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
  • The extreme weather that has been common lately is also having an effect on public health. Rose adds, “Temperatures have warmed over the last several years, triggering more power outages so that we see hospitals building their own power systems… so that they’ve got power when the rest of the city goes down.” Other weather-related healthcare challenges on the rise include “heat stroke, ticks, mental health issues, longer allergies seasons, and mosquito-borne illnesses in freshwater.”

Stress from Anticipating Emergencies and Government Mandates

Reeves shares that he regularly interacts with healthcare organizations that are worried about being prepared when large-scale emergencies arise. He adds, “They’re talking about the need to try to anticipate as best they can, to have the equipment. Especially in high-risk areas where we know we’re likely to have certain types of disasters.” What makes these situations even more stressful is when “federal or state-driven mandates are promulgated, some of which are funded and some are not.” In these cases, “it’s up to the organization themselves, all the way through to clinical teams, to figure out how they are going to measure and prepare themselves against these mandates.” Reeves cautions that these situations really “create a lot of physical and economic stress on our customers.”

Keep Thinking Bigger

To close her discussion of emergency preparedness, Rose finds a common theme among the responders to whom she has spoken—that they never think big enough when it comes to a disaster. Healthcare leaders have shared with her that “We’ve trained for 50 gunshot patients. We never train for 200. We’ve trained for floods, but not flooding that might last two weeks, and so, that’s one of the challenges for all… to think bigger in what you’re training for.”

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