Hurricane Harvey was one of the worst natural disasters to hit Texas in its history, but previous natural disasters created a blueprint for a response.
Staffers at Texas Medical Center (TMC) and the Houston Methodist health system wrote in a blog post for NEJM Catalyst that weathering Tropical Storm Allison, which caused $2 billion in damage to the medical campus in 2001, provided the ground work for a response to Harvey.
TMC created a five-prong checklist for its disaster response, according to the post, which included:
- Preparing infrastructure to withstand the storm.
- Building a culture of resilience among staff members.
- Taking advantage of technological advancements to improve communication.
- Training staff to be prepared for a disaster.
- Coordinating patient care with other Houston-area providers.
Despite the advanced planning, TMC and Houston Methodist faced a number of challenges, according to the blog. There was a lack of planning for dialysis patients, for example.
As recovery continues in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, hospitals may have to fight for the money they need to rebuild following a spate of hurricanes that tore through those regions.
Meanwhile, the damage in Texas highlighted the value of telehealth to care for patients after a disaster. Telehealth services are easier than ever to deploy and health systems, including Nemours Children's Health System, have begun integrating remote care into their disaster plans.