5 Home Health Leaders’ Tips on Emergency Prep

Establishing strong staff communication and taking advantage of local resources are crucial for emergency preparedness, a panel of home health leaders said in a recent webinar.

The webinar, moderated by health care accreditation organization The Joint Commission, aimed to identify key leadership strategies for effective emergency operations plans and present different ways to evaluate their success.

Four phases were presented as essential for an effective emergency operations plan: the prevention or mitigation phase, to lessen the likelihood of an emergency or reduce its severity; the preparedness phase, to organize staff and other resource in order to cope with an emergency; the response phase, to test the plan as a whole and determine how to manage patients; and the recovery phase, to assess the plan’s effectiveness and address any weaknesses.

A panel discussion followed the presentation, allowing industry leaders to describe ways they have prepared their companies for emergencies and detail how they’ve adapted to their patients’ needs. Here’s what they had to say about their experiences.

Thomas French, Manager of Clinical Regulatory Compliance for Apria Healthcare Inc.

A leading provider of home respiratory services and medical equipment, Apria owns and operates more than 375 locations across the country and serves over 1.2 million patients each year. As such, French prioritizes streamlining emergency operations plans and making sure everyone is on the same page. “Communication and coordination are crucial,” he says. Another measure Apria takes is deploying vehicles stocked with supplies to areas of greatest need to more easily mobilize and reach patients in the event of an emergency.

Deborah Hagopian, Regional Program Director at Suncoast Hospice

Forging relationships with community responders will prove beneficial when an emergency situation takes place, Hagopian says, particularly when it comes to caring for in-home and hospice patients. That way, emergency responders will be better equipped should they need to pay visits to patients. “We can be a partner in helping them understand that group,” she says.

Barbara Benzio, Manager of Education and Professional Development for VNA of the Treasure Coast

For VNA of the Treasure Coast, a single, centrally located supply stock proved a significant downfall in past emergencies, Benzio says. As a result, the company took steps to improve supply allocation and distribute emergency supply kits to patients, so that they can manage for a time on their own if needed. “We also found after some 2004 storms that maintaining a list of backup transportation is useful in case of flooding or blocked roads,” Benzio says.

Alisa Tomasetti, Director of Logistics and Planning for CVS/Caremark

In case of emergency, Tomasetti says pharmacists with CVS/Caremark assess patients’ level of need, and those with more critical needs are contacted first to make sure they have a sufficient supply of medicine.  “We reach out earlier with impending weather,” she says. And when a home health provider is in the mix, Tomasetti says they’re incorporated in emergency preparedness plans to ensure that patients are tended to as needed.

Laurie Foster, Director of Operations at BrightStar Care

Emergency planning has as much to do with families as it does with staff, Foster says. Opening a channel of communication with family members and patients makes for improved responses and care for BrightStar’s at-home clients in case of emergency. “We’re always working together to find that solution,” she says. And to keep everyone in the loop, BrightStar employs an SMS texting system to send out global messages and updates.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt