4 ways providers can boost health infrastructure in wake of disaster

Community health must be a higher priority both before and after disasters, according to a new paper from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Robust community health and infrastructure is vital to prepare for disasters and deal with their aftermath, according to the report. A well-prepared community healthcare infrastructure emphasizes a broad spectrum of needs that cover both short-term early recovery goals and long-term community-wide objectives. "If developed properly, these latter goals can help communities not only recover from a disaster but also address chronic community health concerns such as access to healthcare services," the report states. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, the healthcare sector should assess healthcare delivery and finance systems' capabilities and limits, as well as factor in planned changes for longer-term planning.

The authors recommend healthcare providers develop pre-emptive recovery-focused planning, or continue to refine existing plans. Disasters often lead health systems to adjust healthcare delivery methods in response to survivors' complex needs in ways that more closely align with the preventive, value-based goals of the Affordable Care Act, and during the recovery process, communities and their healthcare infrastructure should note opportunities to further the transition to these models.

To be successful, post-disaster healthcare strategies must incorporate four key strategies, according to the report:

  • Meet complex patient needs with multidisciplinary team-based care approaches
  • Base individual and community healthcare decisions on health information technology
  • Maintain continuity of healthcare access
  • Use healthcare relationships and coalitions to drive strategic healthcare decision-making

Although disaster planning is predominantly focused on hospital care, outpatient providers deliver nearly 90 percent of healthcare and their higher level of adaptability--one of the most important aspects of disaster relief--makes them vital to disaster relief. For this reason, health officials should make sure to integrate providers such as ambulatory clinics and free-standing emergency departments into disaster planning. Many hospitals work on their disaster adaptability, with many making preparatory changes to their design, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- download the report (purchase required)