The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that 2020 marked the highest duration of power interruptions for electricity customers since they started collecting data more than eight years ago1.
A crisis can occur in many different forms, at varying magnitudes, and at any given point in time. The more thorough a plan is before the emergency occurs, the better the outcome for everyone. For healthcare providers, it is critical that staff is prepared and knows the process to care for patients – even when technology is not readily available.
Establish Critical Procedures
Under the 2016 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Emergency Preparedness Rule, all healthcare providers are required to have a plan in place to react in the state of an emergency.
The CMS rule outlines four core elements:
Even when applying this rule, many providers lack major elements from their plan, which is bound to cause even more distress during an already sensitive time. Although it can be difficult to imagine yourself in an emergency, it is important to think through every possible scenario and develop a specific plan of action. For example, in the case of an EHR system outage, here are just a few of the many protocols you will need to consider:
Determine Roles & Responsibilities
An important part of your crisis plan should include clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Who will do what, and when?
When developing your plan, the organization’s administrator or director of nursing should be in the driver’s seat, determining the steps involved for each unique situation. But these individuals are not the only ones who should be involved in the planning process. Physical and digital security is also an important aspect of the plan that must not be overlooked.
When in crisis mode, the plan should clearly dictate who will be responsible for each process or department affected. Carefully consider every procedure that will need to occur during a crisis, and assign a specific individual (with the right credentials) to that task. For every individual assigned to a task, assign a backup (or two) in case someone is inaccessible or that position is not currently filled. Remember to keep your plan updated. For example, in an emergency such as a natural disaster that would necessitate moving patients/residents offsite:
Put Your Words into Action
After a solid plan is established and well documented, it’s time to put it to the test. Ideally, this should be done on an annual basis at a minimum, preferably bi-annually or even quarterly. Pay attention to the emergency testing regulations in your state, as well as your organization’s policy, as some will require more frequent testing than others. Don’t let your organization fall out of the habit of checking pertinent systems. This is your time to determine whether they are sufficient to carry you through an actual emergency.
Evaluate Your Response
Regular practice of your plan should provide valuable insight on process improvement. What did you learn in the process? Did everything run smoothly and timely, or were there unnecessary delays or confusion? Take the time to address these inefficiencies and write a plan of correction now, while the details are still fresh and before a situation arises.
It should also be noted that plans should be evaluated especially after real emergencies, once operations have safely returned. While we can never plan or foresee every situation, we can always use our experiences and lessons learned to better future outcomes.
Engage Support Services
Natural disasters are not the only crisis long-term care facilities can face. Are you prepared for unexpected emergencies such as:
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