Hospital communication, emergency prep tactics in the post-9/11 era

Healthcare's approach to emergencies and mass casualty events have changed dramatically In the 15 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

For one, communication technology has advanced by leaps and bounds and in the future, healthcare’s emergency readiness needs will likely drive the development of new technology, according to Medscape.

For example, most healthcare systems use communications technology such as the Health and Homeland Alert Network, which sends out text messages, emails and pages simultaneously in the event that any of the systems are unavailable, the publication noted. Moreover, health systems have narrowed down and refined what kind of information they share, Paul D. Biddinger, M.D., chief of emergency preparedness in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Medscape.

Another refinement in emergency preparedness has been wider acceptance of the fact that, in many cases, not all information will be immediately available, and that providers should accept that and work around it, according to Biddinger. “It is unrealistic to expect more information, and if your systems account for that fact, if you're ready to react no matter what happens, it ends up being better for the patient, and you're not disappointed or waiting too long for information that just will never come,” he said.

Similar disasters and attacks, such as the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2015 Philadelphia derailment of an Amtrak train, have served as lessons in the value of improved training, communication and drills.

Healthcare has made progress on non-technological preparations as well, according to Kaiser Health News. A recent White House-led campaign emphasizes training for first responders, civilians and police to prevent trauma victims from bleeding to death. This is a direct consequence of healthcare’s experience in the wake of September 11, Oscar Guillamondegui, medical director of the trauma intensive care unit at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told the publication.