Emergency Management Healthcare

Emergency Preparedness, Asset Management, and PPE: Challenges for Healthcare

Covid kicked off a demand for assets and PPE many modern health had never seen before. The safety of both patients and healthcare workers became an even higher concern than it was previously, and this taxed existing stockpiles of PPE and assets at all levels.

Asset and PPE management became essential operations and cemented themselves as preparedness measures akin to planning and communication.

So what does a holistic program look like with these two operations included? Let’s dive into how to build an emergency preparedness plan with its newest additions, asset management and PPE management.

An Overview of Healthcare Emergency Preparedness

An emergency preparedness plan must work in these four elements to succeed:

  • Risk assessments and all-hazards planning

Identify the hazards in your area. This can be weather-related events, civil unrest, power outages, and other threats that attack the continuity of care. Create a plan for each scenario and what both the hospital and the preparedness team need to do to mitigate the impact.

Reviews should be baked into the process, too. Ideally, your program should take a look at its plan at least once a year and make adjustments based on findings from real events, exercises, and changes to the threat landscape your facilities face.

  • Communication plans and pathways 

There’s little we can do without communication, and its importance only grows in emergencies. Have a plan for communications that goes a few layers deep. Under the right conditions, cell phones and other communications pathways we’ve grown accustomed to become useless. Know how to get your message out regardless of circumstances. Our old communication methods may have grown dust in the past few decades, but their reliability should establish their place within your plan.

The reality is, however, that most scenarios won’t strike down modern communications systems. The game then becomes one of improvement.

Emails and phone calls take time and active attention from response stakeholders. Find a system, such as Veoci, that circumvents that need. Collaborative spaces fill this gap, allowing stakeholders to drop information and data as they work on the response. A set-up like this lets participants consume information when they have the opportunities. And when something requires urgency, a notification can quickly draw eyes.

A collaborative space is a boon during peacetime, too. The same features that help a response will help in planning. Overall, collaborative planning platforms make participation across an organization (and its external stakeholders, like local health departments) less time-consuming, a key to making sure the right boxes receive a check-mark.

  • Policies and procedures

Federal and state laws require members of the healthcare infrastructure take certain preparedness measures. Always keep this in mind and ensure your planning meets the guidelines federal and local regulations set out.

  • Testing and training 

Rarely does a plan go without a few hiccups. Testing will find holes in your plans and give you a chance to patch those issues before they matter. And even when you do resolve those issues, a real emergency will surely find more holes.

This is where training comes into play. Healthcare planners should give their people the knowledge needed to face an unexpected turn and correct course. Familiarity breeds confidence, and training and testing can help build that sentiment within a response team.

Again, testing and training should be done annually at a minimum.

The Hospital Preparedness Program

If your department is struggling to come up with the funds to sustain its program, consider the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP). The HPP supports the federal funding for hospitals to prepare for and respond to emergencies. The funds go to the development of plans, training, and the supplies needed in order to best respond to a crisis.

The HPP’s ultimate goal is to improve patient outcomes and minimize the need for federal resources during a crisis. The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) reduced the wait period of the 30 days request process to one to three business days in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through HPP, healthcare systems can improve their medical surge capacity and secure resources, pharmaceutical supplies, training, education, drills, and exercises.

Incorporating PPE Management into Emergency Preparedness

Hospitals and other healthcare providers were in desperate need of PPE through the initial phases of the Covid-19 pandemic. A worldwide scramble for protective equipment was met with a shortage of supplies. Not only was the demand greater than the supply, shutdowns across the world significantly hampered the production of PPE. Many providers also looked for powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), equipment that requires routine inspections and maintenance.

This is where asset management inserted itself into the preparedness picture. While emergency managers and other preparedness practitioners in healthcare don’t procure these supplies for their organizations, they can maintain situational awareness of assets and other supplies.

Virtual platforms simplify how processes work, and asset and PPE management is no different. As supplies come in, hospital personnel can log that data into a platform. Conversely, as personnel consume PPE, the asset manager can note those purchases.

What this offers emergency managers is data. As these transactions and shipments come in, the data can be sent to the emergency manager, who can then keep other stakeholders updated about the supply stores. This level of awareness goes a long way, and allows leadership to get ahead by making smarter decisions.

Making Actionable Asset Management Data

Once tracking supplies is established, the struggle with asset management becomes interpreting and distributing the data.

Clear data visibility is a must. This means having a full view of current inventory and asking questions: how many do you have, how often are those resources being used, where are they located, is it time to replenish or replace?

Again, a virtual platform can quickly answer all of these questions through automated reporting. Dashboards can feed live data from intake and supply request processes and display the current situation for anyone that loads the view.

Gathering the data from the operations and grouping it on a dashboard also facilitates trend analysis. Asset managers can use this data to stay ahead of depleting supply counts, ensuring protective equipment is always available for personnel.

Holistic Emergency Preparedness

Emergency preparedness plans keep care going when events and disasters force hospitals to respond. Covid-19 pushed asset and PPE management into the essential operations of all healthcare emergency preparedness plans; a holistic approach incorporates these two workflows, keeping healthcare personnel as safe as possible when their well-being is at risk.

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