Communication issues are noted prevalently as opportunities for improvement during post-emergency event and after-action review processes. A specific factor commonly identified is that key stakeholders were not informed soon enough during the event initiation. Time is critical in a crisis, and early notification can expedite the coordination of staff and resources to respond.

Trauma staff, house supervisors and senior leaders are all common roles that are typically notified early in an event. However, there are several other roles that should be sought out for a coordinated response effort, too. The four teams below may be underused in initial response actions but can add significant value:

  • Case management has preexisting relationships with post-acute facilities; these teams can create needed bed capacity by facilitating discharges. They can also serve as a conduit of communicating patient information with partner agencies to help identify casualties from a community event. 
  • Patient transport teams keep patients moving quickly and safely through the facility. Expediting patient flow through the emergency department to other points of care is key to an effective surge response.
  • Clinical informatics staff keep important applications such as emergency medical records functioning to allow clinicians to perform their care tasks. During a downtime, clinical informatics will likely be the best team to identify the extent of a downtime incident and assist with operationalizing downtime procedures.
  • Laboratory staff are valuable to many aspects of an emergency response. Most notably, they can ensure access to medications (including managing medication stations during downtimes). They are also the liaisons for life-saving blood resources.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires  facilities to have a well-coordinated communications plan as a core part of the overall emergency management program. Consider how these stakeholders and others are included in your plan for prompt emergency response, and take coordination to the next level.

Kathryn Quinn, MHS, CHSP, SASHE, is safety officer, Saint Alphonsus Health System