The concept of hospital resilience has changed in light of COVID-19. Despite planning and training for unexpected worst cast scenarios, one key assumption was not consistent with this pandemic response – that not everyone would be affected worldwide. The traditional “essential employees” changed, which left some gaps in filling the new essential roles. Preplanned mutual aid and supply chains were not able to function as planned and exercised. Some agencies focused on the roles within the Incident Command System and lost site of the principles behind it.
Hospitals had a few advantages over other responders, but new challenges as well. For example, being well trained on personal protective equipment (PPE) reduced the amount of just in time training needed for this response. Developing new critical roles, enforcing stricter visitor policies, addressing growing mental health concerns, and ensuring enough (but not too much) information sharing are just a few of the challenges hospitals planned for but did not fully grasp before experiencing this scenario firsthand.
However, the widespread response effort has provided opportunities to learn and grow the industry. Previously siloed sectors have discovered shared priorities with hospitals and other new partners. Complicated supply chains are becoming better understood by those who depend on them. Overlooked and nontraditional stakeholders are organically becoming an integral part of future planning efforts. Telehealth and other online services are expanding exponentially.
To overcome the challenges and embrace the opportunities that COVID has introduced, hospitals and other response agencies need to be flexible and address critical needs internally as well as externally with more community engagement. Effective collaboration and communication would help provide a common operating picture, build situational awareness, and maximize resources in order to recover at a faster pace. This pandemic has and will continue to provide lessons learned. With solid leadership, creative thinking, and a strategic goal, hospitals will be able to face future unexpected disasters with greater confidence in their preparedness, response, and recovery plans.
These topics and more are discussed in this DomPrep webcast.