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California Wildfires Show CMS Emergency Preparedness is Vital

With wildfires becoming increasingly volatile due to the unpredictable nature of the Santa Ana winds, the Ojai Valley Community Hospital decided to proactively transfer 48 of their patients who were unable to walk in case of an emergency evacuation. 28 mobile patients remained at the hospital. This action was taken in close collaboration with the local fire department, which indicated that the situation was extremely fluid and could impact the area unexpectedly.

Luckily, in this case, the area remained unaffected. But through monitoring the situation, close collaboration with local emergency management agencies, and an assessment of the potential risks associated with evacuating patients of varying needs, the hospital was able to make a smart decision and act on it quickly and effectively.

Other hospitals were not so lucky in avoiding the need for an evacuation. Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa medical center quickly saw the need to evacuate, and took a two-pronged approach. Patients who required medical support were transported to other facilities by ambulance, while patients without critical needs were transported via private buses.

In both of these examples, access to information was a critical part of their success. Knowledge of patients, their locations, their conditions, and their needs. Knowledge of available staff and resources. Knowledge of the situation and the potential impact it could have on both their facilities and their patients. All of it was necessary if the successful transfer of dozens of patients was going to take place.

But the existence of that knowledge was not the only key factor—the dissemination of that knowledge was also vital. Communication between leadership and staff, between staff and patients and families, between hospital and transport, hospital and local emergency management agencies, hospital and the community as a whole. Each point of communication held the potential for failure and the possibility of putting lives at risk.

Get systematic with knowledge and communication

An emergency such as a wildfire is no time to experiment with effective communication. When patients are involved, having a systematic process in place with fewer opportunities for error can mean the difference between life and death.

This is why WatchPoint AtRisk Registry is so important. It enables healthcare facilities, both inpatient and outpatient, to communicate in real time about the whereabouts and needs of their most vulnerable patients, empowering individuals and agencies to make intelligent decisions in the moment and provide the best care possible in a turbulent situation.

California is a dramatic example right now, but it’s not unique. It could have been a flood, an electrical grid failure, a blizzard, a mass shooting … emergencies can occur anytime, anywhere. Even if you are well aware of your risk for certain kinds of disasters, it can be hard to plan for the kind of emergency that might require evacuation if you’ve never been through the experience yourself. Luckily, WatchPoint AtRisk Registry has already been extensively tested in the aftermath during Hurricane Katrina, meaning you don’t need to wait for the worst in order to find out if it works.

In the world of healthcare, patients count on you to live up to your mission not just on the best days, but also on the worst. Planning now for those terrible eventualities shows them that their faith in you is well-placed. And hopefully, that worst day you planned for never comes.

Interested in seeing Brightgray Solutions’ WatchPoint AtRisk Registry in action? Click here for your free demo today.

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