Hurricane Harvey, Houston.
Hurricane Irma, Florida.
Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico.
These are just a few of the 17 named storms in the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, making it the fifth most active on record. And each time, hospitals have been at the forefront of recovery and response.
There are any number of other types of natural and man-made catastrophes to which hospitals respond, providing much-needed refuge and care to people in the direst of circumstances. For the women and men tasked with ensuring that hospitals are prepared, the focus has long been on the resilience of each facility. Are employees properly trained? Do they have enough medication? Are backup generators working properly?
At last week’s annual National Healthcare Coalition Preparedness Conference in San Diego, Dr. Charles Miramonti, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis and Chief, Indianapolis EMS, challenged hospitals to think a bit differently about emergency preparedness, to bring the concept beyond the four walls of the hospital. He questioned: Can we build community resilience in advance, recognizing that in disasters, it is often communities themselves that play the most important role?
Miramonti offered five determinants of community resilience: physical and psychological health, social and economic well-being, effective risk communication, integration of organizations, and social connectedness.
Sound familiar? These are concepts with which all of Maryland’s hospitals are quite familiar, and their core tenets mirror those of population health: the most important being to strengthen your communities so they will be less reliant on the health care system as a whole, ensuring valuable resources will be available for those who truly need them.
In your push toward improving the health of communities, you’ve fostered new and unexpected partnerships, identified vulnerable and isolated patients and neighborhoods, and found new ways to reach out to people who have never stepped foot in your hospital. In this way, you’ve laid the foundation for not only healthier communities, but more resilient communities.
Can the same principles be applied to emergency preparedness? Could a hospital offer layman training for response, as it now offers healthy diet coaching? Could a hospital work with social services agencies to identify and track people who might not have communication in an emergency, similar to the way hospitals now track dialysis patients should disaster strike? Could a hospital help with infrastructure projects to prevent floods, the way some hospitals now invest in housing or other community improvements? And more.
The integration of population health, emergency preparedness, and community resilience can make a day-to-day difference in your communities and your hospitals. And it could make a real difference the next time disaster strikes.