The Multi-Tracking Evolution for Emergency Preparedness: 2010 and Beyond

Until the early 2000s, disasters were often viewed on a short list of natural events – hurricanes, tornadoes, or wildfires, for example. As many of us have experienced this past decade, we learned that any region is at risk for natural or man-made unforeseen disasters and events.

Each year, we see increased interest in advanced disaster or mass casualty incident (MCI) responsiveness with city and state health departments. The definition of “disaster preparedness” has expanded into mass evacuations, pandemic management, health-clinic operations, and special-event medical preparations for all types of health agencies and organizations. In addition, preparedness requirements now encompass all levels of response – including local, state, and national organizations.

As disaster-preparedness dynamics continue to change and grow, the technology requirements to support these different organizations’ needs are also changing. One specific technology that continues to evolve and gain an important role in disaster and emergency-preparedness operations is tracking technology – more specifically, multi-tracking.

A good example of this trend was seen during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Medical equipment and pets became important tracking items for the impacted areas’ hospitals, government agencies, and, most importantly, for the patients. The two hurricanes also were the first disasters in which many local agencies and hospitals needed to track multiple elements, not only within their own state, but also across state lines.

Today, both man-made and natural events have caused many government and private-sector health organizations to reevaluate their medical and disaster-preparedness plans because no region is immune to medical emergencies, or to disasters. Therefore, this growing trend in preparedness has metamorphosed tracking technology beyond single- patient tracking to a multi-tracking management system.

Going forward into 2010, tracking technology will continue to move beyond a single tracking system to multi-tracking technology that supports any level of disaster- preparedness plans. New data elements – such as personal belongings, family contacts, pets, medical equipment, and volunteers/employees contacts – will continue to be added as critical tracking items for effective emergency-preparedness planning.

Another growing trend is the use of multi-tracking wireless technology for temporary medical operations and large-event safety planning. Special events – like Mardi Gras, the Presidential Inauguration, and the Boston Marathon – have already incorporated multi-tracking technology to streamline medical operations and the event management of patients, volunteers, and medical supplies. Specifically, multi-tracking wireless technology ensures that first-responder medical teams remain in the field, but can connect in real time to the main operations center for continuous communication. This trend will continue to grow as national agencies, local governments, and health organizations focus on event-safety and disaster-prevention plans.

Finally, multi-tracking technology will continue to gain traction with the monitoring and preparation plans specific to community health management, like pandemic or seasonal influenza, and pneumonia outbreaks. During this year’s Novel H1N1 pandemic planning, several local and state public-health departments used tracking multi-technology with new data elements to help their public health departments, community nurses, health care providers, and point of dispensing (POD) sites to monitor and track the prevalence of H1N1 and seasonal influenza. Special data elements tracked and reported on administered vaccine doses, as well as patients that presented themselves with influenza-like illnesses and pneumonia. The technology also organized and analyzed data quickly to improve preparations, community outreach programs, and communications for flu vaccinations. This usage trend will continue as the different virus strings change.

As new emergency-management needs emerge, tracking technology will continue to improve to address the multiple data and patient elements that assist EMS, hospitals, and healthcare organizations to better manage critical resources, patient care, and valuable time. The technology will continue to expand its flexibility – both to support local policies and nomenclature and to reflect any unique state or local needs in the patient tracking process, to improve care for patients and victims.

Unfortunately, the risks of disaster we face will not disappear, but will only continue to change. Therefore, how we leverage tracking technology to improve emergency-preparedness operations – across the healthcare continuum – with accuracy, speed, and focus will be a key factor in minimizing the impact on patients and preserving the safety of our citizens.

Andy Nunemaker

Andy Nunemaker is the CEO of EMSystems. Prior to joining EMSystems, he spent six years on the management team at GE Healthcare in various roles including: CEO of GE Medical Systems for Australia, New Zealand, and South East Asia; Six Sigma Quality Leader; and Plant Manager. Prior to joining GE, Andy held several management roles at SBC Communications and Bain Consulting. Andy has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Valparaiso University, a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech, and an MBA from Harvard University.



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