The theme of 2020 has been emergency preparedness. Surgical practices across the country have had to navigate ever-changing government mandates, evolving health statutes, supply shortages, and uneasy patients while delivering surgical care. Many of our partners on the gulf coast have had to prepare for the arrival of not one, but two hurricanes. West Coast friends have had to wrestle unpredictable wildfires. Even though you may not be impacted by approaching hurricanes or wildfires, it is always instructive to review one’s emergency preparedness plans and the potential disruption to surgical care. In fact, CMS requires quarterly updates to the emergency preparedness plans. Below are some quick tips to ensure your surgical practice is prepared for the next hurricane, natural disaster, or unprecedented event.
Keep it simple
Disasters are stressful and unpredictable situations. Even the best-laid plans may be cast aside with personnel constraints and limited information. Therefore, the easier the disaster plan to execute, the more likely to be implemented. Disasters can be humbling and incorporating a plan that recognizes the challenges such situations present is important for deploying a successful disaster plan.
Understand your role
The impact on your surgical practice can vary dramatically based on the type of surgical facility you operate at. Hospitals play outsized roles during disasters that may divert resources reserved for elective surgery to emergency surgeries. Conversely, smaller surgical centers often just shut down during an emergency. But in particularly bad disasters, small ambulatory surgical centers may become an outlet for hospitals unable to meet emergency surgery demands. An open line of communication should be maintained with local coordinating authorities.
Designate an incident commander
It is critical to identify an individual responsible for the overall management of the emergency response. Evacuated staff needs a central point of contact for up to date information. When an ambulatory surgical center does not know when it can get back into its building or, even, its area of the city, it’s important to know where all employees are, how to reach them, and how to stay in touch with supervisors. Recognize that during a disaster email and internet modes of communication may be constrained.
Assign patient coordinators
Recognize disasters impact patient’s availability for surgery too. Designate a familiar individual to keep in contact with surgeons' patients. Elective surgery may involve significant planning for a patient and their support system. Availability and accessibility during an unexpected, anxiety-producing disaster, can speak volumes about the priorities of the practice.
Weathering the disaster
Get your facility ready
Understand the impact of the event on your practice. For hurricanes, often freestanding operating facilities may have to shut down in advance to move critical equipment from windows, board up vulnerable parts of the building, and shut down and back up vital computers. If you operate at a hospital, some facilities participate in catastrophic relief and keep operations running throughout an emergency. Understand what services are maintained at your facility during an emergency. Develop a plan for suspending surgery and keeping impacted patients informed.
During a disaster the supply chains are strained. Make inventory of critical medications and supplies necessary for your surgical practice. This will not only help you prioritize recovery plans, but also give you the foresight to replenish the most mission critical supplies. In addition, disasters may compromise infrastructure and lead to prolonged power outages or poor water supplies that can disrupt the continuity of surgical care.
The moment calamity threatens the continuity of surgical care, in parallel with the disaster plan, a resumption plan that incorporates a critical review of the supply chain needs to materialize. Factors including resource availability, personnel availability, needs of pending cases, and needs of canceled cases must be considered.
During the disaster, assess approaching scheduled cases daily for potential risk of cancellation and provide patients with clear guidance. Maintain detailed records on canceled patients that the rest of the surgical practice can access once care resumes. Implement a resumption plan that recognizes individual patient circumstances.
How can we help you?
Recent disasters have illustrated the importance of emergency preparedness. They have also highlighted the importance of systems to manage volatility in surgical care these events precipitate. Do you need help managing surgical care effectively? Contact us today for a free consultation and practice audit.