Is Your Organization Ready for a Disaster?

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Karen Utterback By Karen Utterback 
Former Vice President, Product Marketing and Strategy, McKesson (Retired)
Getting Your Organization Ready for Disaster

The rising number of superstorms and severe winters like the Northeast saw this year create an opportunity for home care workers to shine. The Boston Globe reported on 24-year-old DeKayla Graham, who braved the height of a late-January blizzard to help a quadriplegic patient. Graham is certainly in good company.

But weather disasters and other emergencies also can expose areas where home health organizations are not as prepared as they could be, according to a recent report published in Home Health Care Management & Practice.

The literature review for “Disaster Planning for Home Health Patients and Providers” was conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles and others. It found a significant amount of variability in reported practices. For example, only two articles recommended registering patients with the utility provider if they are on essential electrical equipment.

Although the role of the home health organization is not necessarily to be the first responder in case of an emergency, said the study authors, organizations do have a responsibility to create a disaster preparedness program that ensures their patients are as self-sufficient as possible if an emergency were to occur.

Recommendations from the report and a 120-page rule proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) make clear that disaster preparedness should be a priority for home care organizations. In its proposed rule, CMS includes these elements of an emergency preparedness program:

  1. Have a written, formal plan that shows the organization is prepared for a full spectrum of emergencies, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, cyber attacks and pandemics.
  2. Determine your organization’s surge capacity in the event that local hospitals need to discharge people to accommodate an influx of more acute patients. Keep in mind the disaster could simultaneously affect your staff.
  3. Create a standardized risk classification system so high-risk patients easily can be identified and prioritized in an emergency.
  4. Create a communications plan that accounts for potential difficulties communicating with state and local authorities, as was the case during Hurricane Katrina.

I’m in full agreement with the report authors when they point out that events like Katrina showed how quickly lines of communication can break down and shine a light on the need for home health organizations to be as self-reliant as possible during such events.

Of course, as a technology provider, I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to also protect your information technology (IT) system in the event of a natural disaster. For our hosted customers, McKesson offers an underground facility that houses our solution servers to provide a degree of security far beyond general measures.

Contact us to learn more about McKesson Homecare™ Managed IT.

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