The safety of patients, guests and staff is the top priority in hospitals. Healthcare facility managers must always focus efforts on emergency preparedness to ensure readiness in the face of extreme weather events, violence and other crises. An increase in mass shootings in hospitals and other community spaces across the country makes preparation even more imperative. 

In three recent articles, Healthcare Facilities Today discussed how and why facilities plan to handle emergencies. With insights from Scott Cormier, Medxcel’s Vice President of Emergency Management, Environment of Care and Safety, Healthcare Facilities Today overviewed responses to crises and offered guidance on physically and financially preparing hospitals for emergencies. 

Emergency-Escape.jpgThe importance of effective preparation 

Facing crises confidently keeps patients and associates safe while building trust within the community. In order to maintain a safe healing environment, facility managers must create and implement sustainable systems instead of temporary solutions.  

“It is common for leadership to view emergency management as a regulatory and revenue-depleting program,” Cormier said. “Sometimes, a facility will overreact to a crisis failure and overspend on an emergency management program only to cut it after a few years.” 

We learn from our past experiences and by observing how other hospitals respond to situations. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, too many hospitals were counting on COVID acting the same as previous viruses like H1N1, leading them to be unprepared to meet the demands of the pandemic and obtain adequate PPE. This taught facilities to be ready for anything and adapt to new demands as they arise, and Medxcel was proud to have a supply chain strategy that meant we were well-equipped with PPE in 2020. Along the same lines, major natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina emphasized the need for solid emergency planning instead of assuming external partners would be able to provide all of the necessary help. This year, an increase in violent events in hospitals and healthcare locations has underscored the importance of having active shooter plans and taking precautions to mitigate risks. 

“Healthcare facilities need to understand that during a disaster, they are a critical asset to their community,” Cormier said. “Closing or curtailing services because you do not have an adequate plan or resources is not an option. We need to be resilient and have a proper plan and process to ensure we are making the right decisions so we can continue to be that critical asset to our communities, as well as protect our patients and staff.” 

The key components and stages of an emergency preparedness plan 

Emergency management includes mitigation, planning, response and recovery. Before facing an emergency, hospitals can shield themselves by mitigating risks and creating plans of how to respond given the circumstance. 

An all-hazards plan creates a common process for the early stages of any disaster: recognizing the situation, notifying team members and partners, and coordinating resources. Facilities managers should also develop specific plans for top hazards and vulnerabilities that include appropriate resources to handle and recover from the disaster. 

Medxcel recommends having different levels of response depending on the situation. Our three levels of responses help facilities implement the right strategies to meet specific challenges. A Level 1 response means the facility can handle the crisis with the resources they already have, while a Level 2 response means the facility may need additional resources. A significant impact on operations would necessitate a Level 3 response, requiring additional external and partner resources.  

Recognizing vulnerabilities and mitigating risks 

Acknowledging risks helps facilities know how to properly prepare for potential events. For instance, the emotionally demanding environment of hospitals creates increased likelihood for acts of violence. According to The Joint Commission’s 2018 report, workers are four times more likely to face verbal or physical abuse in healthcare than in any other industry. The issue even inspired some new state laws, requiring workplace violence prevention plans in healthcare facilities and criminalizing threats or harm against healthcare workers.  

At Medxcel, we conduct hazard and vulnerability assessments to find the best preventative tactics for each healthcare facility, using the federal government’s data collection and analysis tool, RISC (Risk Identification and Site Criticality).  

“After you identify your risks, then you decide where to reduce risk through mitigation and create plans to respond and continue operations during a disaster,” Cormier said.  

Hospitals often train associates on de-escalation techniques to address workplace violence. Additionally, effective access control systems ensure that only approved people have access to certain areas and information to prevent harm. Healthcare facilities typically use a mix of physical and electronic security, including uniforms and IDs, keys and key cards, cipher locks, biometric authentication and more. An essential element of successful access control systems is maintaining and updating them by providing regular training and changing codes when an employee leaves. 

Maintaining readiness 

By integrating emergency management with daily operations, facility managers can create whole hospital accountability and ensure a sustained state of readiness so that facilities can offer continued service to communities during disasters. This includes regular training and practice to build confidence and preparedness.  

Having an effective plan in place allows healthcare facilities to recover quickly while being able to concentrate attention and resources on patient needs. 

To learn more about healthcare facility emergency preparedness and responses to crises, check out the following articles from Healthcare Facilities Today: 

You can learn more about Medxcel’s approach to emergency preparedness and safety by listening to Scott Cormier directly, here, or by contacting us at info@medxcel.com or 855-633-9235.