Emergency management: Glass half full or glass half empty?

Or is there even a glass when there is no dire emergency facing healthcare?

One of the time-honored challenges of folks working in non-revenue-generating functions in healthcare (e.g., environmental services, facilities, safety, etc.) is trying to obtain resources during those times when the feces is striking the rapidly rotating blades. And never is that challenge greater than for folks charged with ensuring healthcare organizations are adequately prepared to respond to emergency situations. With the ever-shifting focus of the regulatory survey process, if emergency management isn’t considered a hot topic (it looks like we might be heading in that direction), it becomes a function of allocating resources to the biggest “pain points.”

Now, you might think that the prolonged response to the pandemic would have provided some degree of illumination to the decision-makers and finance folks in healthcare (though some of the finance folks might be yipping about all the stuff that was purchased during COVID and is now expiring), but, all too often, if there’s no true urgency to the requests, it can be difficult to proactively engage in preparation activities. Part of that is certainly a case of not being able to “know for sure” what might be coming down the pipeline—or even what might be right around the corner—until we actually turn the corner. This sort of begs the question of how specifically have you quantified what constitutes your essential emergency back-ups, and how do you grow that list during the calm?

As I think about it, it’s tough to try to sell future preparedness while you’re in the midst of a response; so anything that’s not current and applicable to the current state of emergency response might get set aside for the future. Despite the heroic response efforts over the past few years, I guess the marketing folks haven’t come around to using an organization’s preparedness efforts as a means of establishing a competitive advantage. I suppose it’s tough to measure, but maybe some day US News & World Report will publish a list of “America’s Most Prepared Hospitals.” To steal a phrase from Brian Wilson, wouldn’t it be nice!

Hopefully, we’ll be able to revisit the challenges of the past as a true means of proactively preparing for the future—something wicked this way comes—and we definitely want to be out in front of the fallout of whatever it is.

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.