June 1st marks the beginning of the 2021 hurricane season, which is expected to result in an above average number of Atlantic hurricanes . Following the updated hurricane season forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo highlighted the importance of communities both along the coastline and inland to have emergency response plans that include an evacuation strategy to safely relocate residents to areas outside the reach of the storm or provide refuge in shelters.
As local, state, tribal, and federal jurisdictions ready their hurricane preparedness and response plans, efforts continue to be complicated by the enduring COVID-19 pandemic. Entering into a second hurricane season overlaid by the pandemic, the federal government has released operational guidance for all-hazards response and recovery the recognizes the unique challenges posed by COVID-19. Even as cases of COVID-19 begin to subside in the United States, the challenges of the pandemic serve as a reminder of the importance of preparing now for the 2021 Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons, peak Western wildfire season, and any emergency which could displace thousands of people from their homes and routine healthcare settings.
As in previous years, jurisdictions in 2021 must contend with longstanding financial constraints as they ready themselves against this year’s hazards. Financial concerns loom as local, state, and tribal funding, often already under resourced, saw a shift in budgets away from core emergency preparedness efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps promising are new state and federal investments in pre-disaster funding, exemplified by the May announcement that 2021 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) funding will be doubled to $1billion. However, while a step in the right direction, improved community resilience will ultimately rely on sustained infrastructure investment and proactive resilience requirements, in addition to state and federal funds made available through emergency declarations.
Efforts to create a more resilient health care system are also underinvested in. While attention has recently been paid to deficits in to modernizing the public health data infrastructure and workforce, significant investments to modernize and expand these areas are still needed. In addition, the FY2021 funding level for the Hospital Preparedness Program, the only source of federal funding for health care system readiness, is $18 million less than the FY2020 enacted level. Advocates have suggested a significant increase to the FY2022 budget in order to make up for historic underfunding.
Key Challenges in Healthcare Coordination During Hurricanes and Other Natural Disasters
When health care infrastructure is impacted, individuals and communities that rely on routine care may experience interruptions or delays in care. Sometimes healthcare must be delivered in non-routine clinical environments like medical shelters and other alternate care facilities. Key challenges in health care coordination during disasters and public health emergencies include:
- Facility Evacuation occurs when an inpatient or ambulatory care facility, like a hospital, dialysis center, or mental health facility is impacted by an emergency event or disaster, requiring patients and providers to leave the facility. Appropriately evacuating patients includes identifying receiving facilities with appropriate levels of care to meet their specific health needs, and reassigning staff and supplies. Sometimes shelters may need to be evacuated, causing already displaced individuals to be moved yet again.
- Patient Tracking is the ability to continuously follow and monitor patients throughout the care continuum as patients are moved from the scene of the disaster to healthcare settings and alternate care facilities. Some providers are also required to track their routine patients and ensure they are receiving the care they rely on throughout the course of the disaster.
- Medication Adherence is a crucial issue during and after natural disasters, specifically for populations with complex or chronic conditions that require routine, ongoing care. During disasters, medication non-adherence can lead to disease progression, an increase in healthcare utilization or healthcare costs, and negative health outcomes, including morbidity and mortality.
For a more in-depth overview of these key challenges, download our new eBook “How to Improve Care Coordination During Disasters”. The eBook addresses how disaster and emergency response organizations can leverage care coordination tools to empower providers and emergency responders with information to support and coordinate patient care during unique disaster situations. Download the eBook here.
Hurricane Preparedness and Response Using PULSE Enterprise™
While providing healthcare during a disaster situation remains a major challenge and concern for emergency response officials, advances in clinical care delivery and documentation make it easier than ever for providers to quickly understand the unique health needs of an individual seeking refuge from severe weather. Situational flexibility, quick access to critical information, and effective communication can all make the difference in outcomes during times of crisis.
“Part of resilience in the face of disaster is being ready to respond no matter what incident comes your way,” said Lauren Knieser, Audacious Inquiry’s Senior Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response. “As response partners, Audacious Inquiry is proud to support a rapid implementation for affected communities to ensure that people seeking care in non-traditional environments receive quality care.”
The Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies (PULSE) Enterprise™ is one example of successfully leveraging advancements in modern health information technology to meet the unique demands of the disaster response environment. Audacious Inquiry’s PULSE Enterprise platform is a cloud-based, scalable software solution that allows providers to solve critical gaps in patient care during emergencies. Activated during times of crisis, PULSE Enterprise gives providers the real-time patient clinical information required to make informed decisions at the point of care. Supplementing the easy-to-adopt software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, which requires only a web browser and an internet connection to access, is a suite of wraparound services that customers can utilize for set-up and training both in advance and on the fly.
- Administrative features of the system can be leveraged to streamline onboarding of users to the system and activation when needed quickly. At the same time, when pre-planning allows, the system can be configured ahead of time and stand ready for activation when it is needed.
- A 24/7 Services Desk is available for administrators of the system to obtain assistance during active use of PULSE Enterprise in the field.
- Robust Training Library is responsive to training needs, including a Train the Trainer program that facilitates integration of user training into existing preparedness planning processes. Available to customers are full written training guides, tutorials, quick-start guides for on-the-fly implementation and annual refreshers.
- Tabletop Exercises and Drills, supported by Audacious Inquiry, allows each customer to test incorporation of the system functionality into their own disaster preparedness plans in the off-season; additionally, Audacious Inquiry can enhance activation and support processes for all customers based on findings from these drills.
Emergency Management professionals know that successful plans must be comprehensive but flexible and they should expect the same from any technology they deploy in the field. By leveraging national health information exchanges, PULSE Enterprise can supplement existing health care coordination tools to ensure patient health and medication histories are available to providers in non-routine emergency settings and to patients who may have been displaced far from their regular care providers.
For more information on how you can leverage PULSE Enterprise to expand your local, state, or federal disaster response capabilities, visit our solution page or contact Audacious Inquiry’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Team.