Prior to the pandemic, healthcare systems were already working to balance daily clinical operations with competing events.
Given the frequency and severity of natural disasters, cybersecurity incidents, man-made threats, and other critical events, there’s a renewed focus on how to better anticipate and respond with a view toward building resilience for the future.
“This focus is not just about responding to short-term crises in the now but looking at long-term preparedness to build resilience for the future,” said Eric Chetwynd, general manager of healthcare solutions at Everbridge. “This begins with innovating new ways to gain a system-wide view of risks to keep people safe while creating a better patient experience and outcomes.”
Strengthening Resilience Amidst Increasing Challenges
To accomplish this, healthcare systems are building resilience plans that are tailored to meet the unique challenges and circumstances of the communities they serve (i.e., the patient population, size of the hospital/community and scope of services).
Many of these challenges existed before the pandemic and have only increased in intensity as hospitals continue to define operations. These include:
+ Critical staff shortages
+ Operational and capacity challenges
+ Increase in workplace violence
+ Infection control protocols
+ Financial pressures
In addition, healthcare providers continue to address low staff vaccination rates and mandate policies.
To support healthcare systems, OSHA, the CMS, the Joint Commission and other agencies have devised new guidance and preparedness measures that address these unprecedented challenges. With these new measures, healthcare systems have had to quickly pivot to meet compliance, as highlighted in this new regulatory guide. This includes applying new technologies in new ways to address a broad array of communication needs and respond in a more efficient, coordinated way.
Bringing Physical and IT Security Together
Hospitals continue to face increasing rates of workplace violence with health care and human services workers four times as likely to be attacked or assaulted on the job. Further heightening the risk to facilities, is the rise in man-made incidents, including active shooter events. With emerging safety and security risks, hospitals need a reliable, immediate way for staff to call for help and a quick, efficient way for the responding security teams to immediately gain situational awareness and location-detection.
In addition to ensuring employee, staff and patient safety during critical events like a natural or man-made disaster, many technologies are being extended to quickly detect and resolve high-impact IT incidents. In the event of a breach, IT teams need to be able to respond faster and in a more coordinated way across multiple teams to prevent system outages and downtime. According to an IDG survey, the time spent to assemble an IT response team in the event of a major incident like a cybersecurity attack can cost a health care facility from $222,000 to $350,000.
“Many hospitals are aligning physical security and cybersecurity teams to work together instead of in separate siloes, to create a holistic view of security threats that may compromise their operations enterprise-wide,” said Chetwynd.
Transforming Patient Care, Engagement and Outcomes
Capacity challenges due to new cases of the COVID-19 variant Omicron indicate that patient visits for elective procedures are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels for some hospitals in the near future. As healthcare providers work to quickly triage cases, tools that facilitate a real-time response and enhance clinical communication and collaboration are being leveraged to improve workflow efficiencies for better patient outcomes and substantial time and cost-savings. Some hospitals have even set up virtual emergency rooms to triage and prioritize more urgent care.
Clinical communication and collaborative tools have been shown to play a significant role in reducing onset to treatment times, especially in high-acuity cases such as STEMI when every minute counts. But these tools can also be applied to create daily workflow efficiencies and increase patient throughput in the future. In addition, tools like telehealth and digital wayfinding are transforming the way hospitals engage with patients and create a better patient experience.
New communication tools are also being leveraged to better engage with staff and boost morale. This is especially important at a time when staff burnout levels are high. Efficient, streamlined staff communications have also led to increased adoption of education, training and compliance initiatives.
As hospitals move toward a new normal, they have an even greater opportunity to put these technologies into daily practice resulting in a more evolved model of healthcare delivery and a hospital that’s more connected and resilient enterprise wide. To learn more, access our new whitepaper, Building Hospital Resilience.