What Does Our Future Preparedness Look Like?
3 takeaways from a new report on the nation’s emergency preparedness
March 15, 2022
We’re thankful the COVID-19 burden on our hospitals and health systems has eased from the winter Omicron surge, but we know we’re just one crisis away from putting our emergency plans into action, whether it’s for an infectious disease, a wildfire, or an emerging cyber threat.
Last week, I read a new report from the Trust for America’s Health outlining the nation’s key steps to prepare for our next crisis, and it reinforced the relentless nature of our work: Even amid a grueling pandemic, we have to keep thinking about the future.
“The nation’s struggle to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of the need for urgent action to prepare for the next public health emergency,” the report says.
The pandemic has provided some important lessons and insights into future preparedness. Here are three takeaways from the report.
The Power of Data
We have all carefully monitored key metrics throughout the pandemic, such as positivity rates, local caseloads, and intensive care unit capacity. These data points are critical to help us assess where we stand during an emergency. Bolstering public health surveillance is critical to improve our preparedness for future emergences, the report suggests.
“Improved response to public health emergencies requires 21st-century data collection and management, including real-time data on the social determinants of health,” the report notes.
Surveillance that reflects the spread of disease in real time helps us predict the potential burden on our hospitals and gives us more time to prepare.
Vaccinations Support Preparedness
Even before COVID-19, emergency managers carefully watched the spread of the flu and other infectious diseases, knowing the potential for a virus to challenge hospital capacity.
During difficult flu seasons, hospitals often implement plans to stretch their capacity, including new triage processes and the establishment of remote care sites in tents or other locations on their hospital campuses.
Knowing the threat of the flu and other infectious diseases, hospitals have always been strong proponents of vaccination efforts that help their communities stay healthy. Put differently, the health of our communities—through vaccination and other efforts—is part of our emergency preparedness.
“In addition to protecting Americans from the seasonal flu, establishing a cultural norm of vaccination, building vaccination infrastructure, and establishing policies that support vaccinations can all help prevent or limit other illnesses for which there is a vaccine, including COVID-19,” the report notes.
Threats are everywhere
It’s humbling to know we are not preparing for just one type of emergency. Our next crisis could be related to ransomware, a hurricane, or the emergence of a novel virus.
The report notes the importance of tools that can help us assess our risks for all hazards, and it provides another important truth for us to remember: Even though we cannot pinpoint what our next crisis will be, we know we must stay ready.
Every emergency—whether it’s local, regional, national, or global in scope—requires an emergency plan. For additional insights about what you need to do to be prepared, contact me or HAP Evolve for more information.