The Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) sets standards for healthcare organizations and issues accreditation to those organizations that meet those standards. Despite the emphasis on standardization among hospital industry practices, there can be a lack of enterprise-wide incident response planning standardization among a company’s multiple facilities.
Hospital systems’ incident response plans, also commonly referred to as emergency operations manuals or disaster plans, establish process and procedures that strengthen capabilities to minimize service disruptions, support local community responses to a variety of scenarios, and promote ongoing financial and organizational well-being. A web-based, enterprise-wide response planning system can unify standard company response processes and procedures, simplify compliance and accreditation efforts, ensure best practices, and provide up-to-date preparedness arrangements for hospital systems.
Hospitals systems, like a variety of other companies, are embracing advanced communications methods and applying web-based technology to response planning. Increasingly available and more reliable technology has allowed multiple industries to transition from archaic binder-based plans to an all-inclusive web-based preparedness program. An enterprise-wide incident response planning system for hospital systems should:
● Support the ability to execute company approved response strategies
● Easily incorporate company growth and facility acquisitions
● Enable site-specific details while not compromising company directives
● Be easily updated with minimal dedicated staff
● Become a shared tool for internal and external responders
● Allow for streamlined compliance audits
While including unique site-specific hazards and response capabilities for each facility, overall response guidelines and visual layout should be standardized to allow for a comprehensive understanding of the parent company’s best practices and proven emergency procedures. Strategic response plan knowledge and familiarity improves the ability of individuals to respond as part of a cohesive system. Standardized incident response plan formats and guidelines should include, but are not limited to:
● Overall plan structure
● Notification procedures
● Response Team organization
● Response Tactics (Initial, intermediate, and long-term)
● Roles and Responsibilities
● Layout and content of Fire Pre plans (if applicable)
● Plot plan key
● Demobilization procedures
● Mandated company and Incident Command System (ICS) forms lists
The purpose of the plan is to ensure effective response procedures dictate appropriate behaviors in the event a crisis situation arises. Whether potential emergency situations occur within the hospital setting or the surrounding communities, effective plans should account for various potential scenarios, ensuring staff readiness and timely responses. Hospital systems’ response plans should reflect potential scenarios that would significantly impact the demand for services or interfere with the ability to provide those services.
Potential operational impacting scenarios can include a sudden and abrupt event or a sustained episode over a longer period of time. Database driven, enterprise-wide planning systems provide hospitals with a tool to standardize best practices while incorporating relevant site-specific details. Hospital response scenarios may include process and procedures related to the following:
● Severe weather
● Natural disaster (ex. earthquake, tsunami)
● Utility failure
● Evacuation and Shelter-in-Place
● Chemical Release
● Radiation exposures
● Active shooter
● Hostage or barricade incident
● Pandemic or local infectious disease episode
● Information technology failure or hacking
● Mass casualty
● Missing person(s)
● Staff shortage
Within each of these scenarios, response processes and procedures must be established, trained for, and exercised. However, common duplicate information is often relevant to a variety of scenarios among multiple plan types. Web-based, database driven systems utilize one database to manage information. This function allows users to effectively duplicate common plan content and revision efforts to all plans and locations that utilize the similar data. This feature minimizes administrative time and ultimately costs associated for managing response plans.
Until web-based preparedness programs became available, plan formats often varied from one facility to another, making it difficult to manage training, compliance efforts, and consistency of basic response procedures. Incorporating a definitive enterprise-wide incident response planning system across a hospital system can maximize efforts, allowing for a streamlined and familiar response process.