Will Health Care Providers Soon Have to Be More Ready for Disasters?

From the NY Times: Can Health Care Providers Afford to Be Ready for Disaster? Some excerpts:

Despite repeated calls for change, however, and billions of dollars in disaster-related costs for health care providers, federal rules do not require that critical medical institutions make even minimal preparations for major emergencies, from hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes to bioterrorist attacks and infectious epidemics such as Ebola and Zika.

“We’ve had way too many circumstances where the results are catastrophic,” said Karl Schmitt, a former division chief for public health preparedness in Illinois and founder of the consulting firm bParati. “Preparedness doesn’t put heads in beds, and if it doesn’t put heads in beds, it doesn’t bring in revenue, so it’s not going to get the C.E.O.’s attention.”

That may soon change. Industry experts are awaiting release of a federal rule that would make emergency preparedness a condition for a wide range of health care institutions to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. More than 68,000 providers would potentially be affected, including hospitals, kidney dialysis centers, psychiatric treatment facilities, home health agencies and organ transplant procurement organizations. Among other steps, providers would be required to conduct regular disaster drills, have plans for maintaining services during power failures and create systems to track and care for displaced patients.

New Webpage for Health Resources on Children in Disasters and Emergencies

Health Resources on Children in Disasters and Emergencies — this new  NIH-based webpage is collaboration between several federal and national agencies and the National Library of Medicine. It is a compendium of resources related to medical and public health issues of children in disasters and emergencies. Links are provided to both journal articles and to other documents and materials that may be useful in preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery activities.

Resources are national or international in scope. The intent of this compendium is to consolidate the multitude of resources available across a variety of organizations, Web sites, databases and training sites, making the search for relevant materials simpler and more direct.


News from NIH

Here are just two of the new items provided by NIH. You can subscribe to this news service via Twitter:

OnTheMap for Emergency Management is a public data tool from the U.S. Census Bureau that provides an intuitive web-based interface for accessing U.S. population and workforce statistics, in real time, for areas being affected by natural disasters. The tool allows users to retrieve reports containing detailed workforce, population, and housing characteristics for hurricanes, floods, wildfires, winter storms, and federal disaster declaration areas.


Community Health Maps Blog is an initiative from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) designed to share information about free and low cost and easy-to-use applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping tools. The goal is to help community-based and other types of small organizations collect and visualize information about their communities with an eye towards using these techniques to support planning and decision-making about community health. NLM encourages the submission of blog postings by those who use such resources to carry out projects within their communities; consider posting details on how your use of mapping tools during a disaster supported health-related decision making.



For those of you who share my dislike of Twitter (too short and too fleeting to be of much use), the author of the news items was gracious enough to share with me the site she uses to store and maintain them.


Health Workshop and Resources from NIH

A Disaster Research Response Workshop: Enabling Public Health Research During Disasters was held June 12-13, 2014 at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, MD. Workshop presentations and recordings are available from http://www.nationalacademies.org/HMD/Activities/PublicHealth/MedPrep/2014-JUN-13.aspx.

 This workshop will examine strategies and partnerships for methodologically and ethically sound public health and medical research during future emergencies. Discussions will include  issues with obtaining informed consent, obtaining approval from Institutional Review Boards, coordinating research efforts with emergency response, and ensuring timely collection of data.

The workshop is a collaboration of the NIH Disaster Research Response Project, the IOM Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events, the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 The NIH Disaster Research Response Project [http://disaster.nlm.nih.gov/dimrc/dr2/disasterresearch.html] is a pilot project led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and supported by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), aimed at developing ready-to-go research data collection tools and a network of trained research responders.

The project’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for researchers to begin collecting health and other data following a major disaster. The focus is on data collection tools and protocols, the creation of networks of health experts also trained as research responders, and integration of the effort into federal response plans for future disasters. Although initially focused on environmental health issues, the hope is this project will be a model for timely collection of data supporting a range of medical and public health research.


As part of this project, NIEHS recently held a tabletop exercise in Long Beach, CA to test how a “research response” might work and what would be expected of researchers choosing to be trained research responders, i.e. first on the scene to begin collecting data once it is safe and reasonable to do so. The article “Tsunami exercise helps prepare research community for disaster response” [http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2014/5/spotlight-tsunami/] describes the exercise and there’s also a video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcfxLmfXUE4&feature=youtu.be&a.

Disaster Lit: the Resource Guide for Disaster Medicine and Public Health (from NLM) now includes records for research tools, such as online surveys and interview scripts, to aid researchers in quickly selecting appropriate measures.