JCAHO Study: Better Communication Needed For Disaster Preparedness

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. – A new study from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) finds that community-based preparation for and response to disasters will require more effective communication and planning among hospitals, public health agencies and community first responders-such as fire, police and emergency medical services-than currently exist.

The study also found that national benchmarks are needed to measure and promote emergency preparedness planning.

The study- Integrating Hospitals into Community Emergency Preparedness Planning by Barbara I. Braun, Ph.D.; Nicole V. Wineman, M.A., M.P.H., M.B.A.; Nicole L. Finn, M.A.; Joseph A. Barbera, M.D.; Stephen P. Schmaltz, Ph.D.; and Jerod M. Loeb, Ph.D. – appears in the June 6, 2006, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study, supported in part by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is the first large-scale national assessment of how closely hospitals and their communities are collaborating and planning together for natural or other disasters. Recent natural disasters and terrorist attacks have underscored the need for health care facilities to integrate their activities with community-based emergency preparedness efforts.

“This study provides important new information about the current state of linkages between hospitals and their communities, and makes clear that neither can afford to work independently in the face of major emergencies,” says Jerod M. Loeb, Ph.D., executive vice president, Division of Research, Joint Commission.  “A coordinated approach is the only way to adequately serve those individuals who are victims of a disaster.”

The study found that most acute care hospitals are involved in community-wide drills, analyze threats and vulnerabilities with community first responders, and are in communities that have plans for mobilizing necessary supplies, equipment, and decontamination facilities that would be required in an emergency. However, the JCAHO study recommends drills and exercises that more truly simulate the stresses created by emergency conditions that persist over time.

Other study recommendations include the creation of health care organization coalitions that can only together accurately determine the adequacy of community resources to meet identified potential needs. The study finally identifies the need for national benchmarks for objectively measuring and gauging continuous improvement in emergency preparedness planning efforts.

To view the complete study, go to http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/144/11/799.

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