Ken Bradberry of The HCI Group shares his thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and how healthcare providers can best prepare and plan to maintain service:
Disaster planning is a critical responsibility in the delivery of IT services for our healthcare providers and at HCI. Disasters on a massive scale can severely disrupt the delivery of healthcare services. Unlike the immediate impact of a fire or a weather event, as we have observed with the current COVID-19 situation, a pandemic can develop gradually over a period of weeks or months depending on the spread of the illness. The economic consequences of a major virus outbreak can be devastating. The current spread of the COVID-19 virus can create increased absentee rates, a realistic threat as this virus runs its course. As I write this article the local communities impacted, for example the entire State of Michigan and schools across the country are closed, impacting millions of parents and students due to the virus. In order to control the infection rates, critical resources may be out of commission for a period of time to recover, care for sick family members or just to watch the kids due to school closings.
Pandemic planning is critical to ensure the continued operation of the hospital facilities and delivery of clinical services. What are your sites pandemic planning process? There are four nationally identified key areas for hospital pandemic planning:
(1) Back-up communication planning
(2) Surge capacity planning (where to overflow and manage excess patients)
(3) Degradation of services planning
(4) Supply-lines to stockpile essential equipment and medications, in COVID-19’s case additional vaccine, ventilators and respiratory services have generated the most concern from a clinical perspective.
As healthcare IT professionals we must enable our hospitals and caregivers with flexible and portable solutions that address the logistical challenges that a pandemic can create. Innovation in this area can come from using existing infrastructure in different ways, or a new product or technology that can empower the hospital to bring consistent quality care when normal operations are disrupted. Can your hospital support the network impact with 40 to 50% of the workforce working remotely due to illness or quarantine mandates? Can your IT infrastructure support the surge of patients at a massive scale; can IT application and infrastructure support the hospitals operational challenges?
For example, in IT we are very accustomed to working remotely using management tools with access to networks, storage, servers and applications to maintain the information technology. Most hospital departments are not acclimated to telecommuting. HCI has created a Work at Home solutions suite that allows health systems to continue to focus on patient care and their organization's strategic initiatives. This is one of many innovative approaches HCI is implanting to mitigate a hospital’s risk and empower the patient and the caregiver.
Imagine a digital transformed healthcare system where all your patients had actionable data available, an ER doctor could immediately determine your health history to help diagnose your health situation, understand your current medications. If your patients happen to travel out of the area and needs to be treated, health information is readily available as well as the primary Physician’s familiar with the history of the patient.
HCI can provide immediate assistance with your Business Continuity planning, remote application and infrastructure management and help your organization set the course for immediate risk mitigation and a strategy for preparing your organization for the future.