As the emergency preparedness coordinator for your hospital, you’re responsible for ensuring the safety of staff, patients, visitors and your facility in a disaster or emergency. While your boss doesn’t need to know every detail of how you do your job, in honor of Boss’s Day on October 16th, here are five things your boss should know about why emergency preparedness is critical for your hospital.
1. Every dollar spent on emergency preparedness saves the hospital money.
Most hospitals think of emergency preparedness as a cost center. After all, it’s an area that needs funds for supplies and personnel, and disaster exercises and training events require revenue-producing employees like doctors and nurses to take time away from treating patients.
However, studies show that the cost benefit for every $1 spent in preparedness creates $4-11 worth of valuable return, with savings coming from fewer and less severe casualties, reduced property damage, and a more expedient recovery to normal business operations. Check out studies from the Harvard School of Public Healthand FEMA for more background and let your boss know the money and resources going towards emergency preparedness are dollars well spent.
2. The number of declared disasters in the US each year is increasing.
While the specific number fluctuates each year, the overall trend in the number of presidentially declared disasters in the US is steadily increasing (FEMA website). Last year, there were 81 declared disasters and with the number currently at 77, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the 2011 total easily surpass 2010.
I’m not sure why the number is growing. It might simply be because of improved reporting, though thinking back of the events from this year (Japan earthquake and tsunami, Midwest tornados, Washington earthquake, Northeast flooding, Southwest power outage and wild fires) makes me wonder if there’s a climate component to the change as well.
Regardless of why, the days of not worrying about disasters because they only affect “the other guy” are over. Disasters are happening in every part of the country so no one is immune. Eventually, your boss may find himself or herself in front of the TV cameras, commenting on how your facility is handling the situation in your community, or worse, having to report to the Board regarding a response that could have been better planned.
This month, the Natural Hazards Center in Boulder published a great article titled, “Better to Be Damned if You Do, Than Damned if You Don’t” about Hurricane Irene. Several commented that it was simply too much effort considering that mass destruction never happened. Unfortunately, complacency can really damage future response competency.
3. There are disruptions every week in our hospital.
Preparing for major events and disasters is a large part of your job as an EMC, but I’m sure you also spend a considerable amount of time dealing with more frequent events, one of the most serious of which is dealing with situations of violence in the hospital.
A hotspot for violent situations in the hospital is the ER. Every week, there are stories of nurses and other ER staff attacked by patients, family members, and even addicts looking to steal drugs. Overcrowding, long wait times and lack of appropriate facilities all contribute to the problem. In California budget short-falls are impacting the number of available psychiatric beds throughout the state. Subsequently, more mental-health-related illnesses are ending up in ERs that may be ill-equipped to manage the increase. A recent article in the LA Times highlighted this situation.
As the hospital emergency preparedness team, having a plan to quickly manage these types of disruptions is crucial for ensuring staff and patient safety on a daily basis.
4. We save thousands or even millions of dollars by quickly recovering from an event.
One of the primary goals in an emergency response is to get operations back to normal as quickly as possible. In its Hurricane Ike report, FEMA reported The University of Texas Medical Branch - Galveston lost $40 million per month because of reduced hospital operations post-Ike. Even if the hospital isn’t completely shut down, loss of even some services will significantly impact revenue.
Hopefully your boss knows that your emergency plan, exercises and training are intended to ensure your hospital gets back to business, as quickly as possible, after an event. And that means critical revenue for your hospital.
5. Hospitals lose millions of dollars every year because they can’t produce documentation to support cost recovery.
Getting recovery funds after a response requires a great deal of documentation, and typically during a disaster response, documentation is the last thing on anyone’s mind. So, each year, hospitals forgo thousands of dollars in funds that they are entitled to, simply because they do not have the documentation to support claims.
With today’s tight margins in healthcare, being able to get reimbursements for the employee overtime needed in the snowstorm, hurricane, or flood can often make a big difference to the hospital’s bottom line. Let your boss know that this tracking of documentation is another area where the emergency preparedness program helps the hospital as a whole.
I hope these steps help raise emergency management awareness in your facility. Without leadership support, our programs often suffer and subsequently, so does our response competency. If you have any additional ideas or suggestions that have worked for you, please feel free to share them!