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December 02, 2019 (Cleveland)

Hospitals Learn from Experts on Disaster Response at Statewide Healthcare Preparedness Conference

Hospitals Learn from Experts on Disaster Response at Statewide Healthcare Preparedness ConferenceSome disasters are anticipated while others come without warning. At the Statewide Healthcare Preparedness Conference held this fall, Northeast Ohio hospital attendees had the opportunity to learn from healthcare professionals and experts from other parts of the U.S. who have experienced disasters and were willing to share their insights.

Speakers included:

  • Paige Laughlin, vice president of operations at HCA Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, who shared her experiences from the shooting that took place at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip.
  • Dr. Richard Hunt, senior medical advisor of the National Preparedness Healthcare Program in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who spoke about triage.
  • Dr. Ronald Ruffing, chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, who highlighted the special considerations related to caring for pediatric patients during a disaster.
  • Reggie Best, president of Lumeta Solutions at FireMon, who discussed issues related to security and compliance.

The four guest speakers were selected for the Healthcare Preparedness Conference based on their experiences in both planning and response in the areas of hospital surge, cybersecurity, triage and care of pediatric patients. The common thread through all of these presentations was the critical importance of planning and exercising those plans with response partners. 

Preparing for Medical Surge Events

Sunrise Hospital is the trauma center closest to the Las Vegas Strip, and on the night of the shooting, which resulted in 58 fatalities and left more than 851 people injured, Sunrise received roughly 215 patients in a two-hour period with over 120 gunshot wound victims. Laughlin’s presentation detailed how the hospital historically worked through emergency preparedness, how it responded the evening of the shooting, triaging patients and deploying resources, and what lessons were learned.

Laughlin reinforced the important role prior planning and exercising with response partners for medical surge events plays in assisting with response coordination and ultimately saving lives. Technology and public response to active events have changed the traditional way people arrive at hospitals for care and require hospitals to adapt quickly for the management and benefit of patients.

Laughlin pointed out the need for standardized equipment throughout the facility to assist with relocated staff during the event; a designated liaison in the hospital command center who has a clinical background to field calls from the outside; and the ability for electronic medical records to have more than 300 alias names to choose from, as very few victims presented with identification.

The Importance of Triage

Dr. Hunt observed that triage, which is used for daily occurring emergencies, also functions during disasters to maximize the numbers of survivors. This session reviewed current approaches and how recent experience with overwhelming numbers of casualties requires taking a hard new look at triage. During a mass casualty event, bystanders tend to get involved immediately, before the professionals arrive, necessitating a new approach to triage. The focus of triage should be on the principles of triage and not the process.

Special Considerations for Pediatric Patients

Dr. Ruffing shared lessons learned from the Boston Marathon bombing. Conference attendees gleaned insight regarding what is needed for the pediatric population in terms of staff, supplies, space and systems. The presentation also addressed special considerations for children who are without an accompanying adult. Unaccompanied minors without injury could have psychological trauma from the event, requiring consideration at the hospital. Mental health in all disaster victims is often overlooked due to the chaos of the event.

Best Practices in Security and Compliance

Reggie Best discussed best practices for achieving complete visibility into all connected medical devices, other endpoints, assets and resources across hybrid infrastructures. He also provided tips on how to bring all endpoints under proper access policies to strengthen security as well as compliance with regulations. Best observed that compliance is not security and that 83% of unplanned outages are caused by mistakes made during an approved change. Seventy percent of those are caused by mistakes made to firewalls. Change “freezes” are mandatory to eliminate unnecessary changes causing those mistakes. Agencies need to understand what they have, prioritize what they need to protect and that a level of automation is needed to prevent compliance breaches and unplanned outages. 

The Healthcare Preparedness Conference, held Sept. 10 at the Quest Business Center in Columbus, was supported with funds received through the Hospital Preparedness Program. The Regional Healthcare Coordinators from the seven regions in Ohio, including The Center for Health Affairs, and the Ohio Department of Health assisted with coordinating the event.

MORE: For more on the Northeast Ohio hospital emergency preparedness work, contact us

TWEETABLE: At the Healthcare Preparedness Conference held this fall, hospitals heard from experts about what they learned during their first-hand experiences responding to disasters.