HAP Blog

What is ‘Smart’ Emergency Management?

These steps can help you embrace an increasingly technological world

October 31, 2023

Newsweek recently released its list of its top “smart” hospitals for 2024. The list showcases the facilities that are using technology, “electronic functionalities, telemedicine, digital imaging, artificial intelligence, and robotics.” It came as no surprise that Pennsylvania hospitals and health systems were well-represented.

The emphasis on new technology is another reminder of the way health care is growing and changing, and that we must quickly adapt to this new world. Emergency management (EM) is one of many fields in health care that could potentially benefit from so-called “smart” technologies, but it’s not easy to get started without first doing your homework.

But what are we even talking about? This rapid evolution of technology has created a new class of terms we must understand. The Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Learning, and Big Data―and this Metaverse stuff―can be somewhat exhausting and maybe even daunting for emergency managers. As overwhelming as tech advancements might be, it isn’t going away, and we can’t disregard it. In fact, we should embrace it.

At HAP’s Emergency Management conference last month, we heard perspectives from the hospital community about how we are innovating in this new era. We heard from our EM leaders about how they are using technology to support their training, exercises, drills, participant roasters, and many other activities related to their EM efforts. While web-based programs for statewide incident management tools have been available for years, internal processes and advancements have too often stayed in the paper-and-pencil world.

While the implementation of new technologies might seem intimidating, the reality might be much different. Here are some first steps that can help you make the leap:

  • Getting started:  Identify a subject matter expert that can provide education, direction, and insight into the growing digital world. It’s always good to have a point person who can help construct a digital foundation on which to build a more robust digitized EM program.
  • Know your location:  Explore the integration of Real-Time Location Services (RTLS) or location intelligence elements into EM plans and programs. This can potentially allow individuals, staff, and command centers to digitally track, in real time, the movement of objects, equipment, patients, visitors, staff, pharmaceutical supplies, and much more. This could potentially support your team during decontamination events, mass casualty incidents, and evacuation situations.
  • Digital dashboards:  Visualization gives a look at how our plans are coming together. Consider creating a real-time 96-hour plan, which is essentially a live dashboard that monitors consumable goods and inventory (PAR) levels. Viewable supplies could include generator fuel, medical gasses, nutritional supplies, linen inventory, drinkable water, or any supplies that have a limited quantity or capacity. 
  • Artificial intelligence:  With the growth of AI, we are likely to see screening tools and hazard vulnerability analysis that periodically updates to rank both internal and external threats and hazards. Any lead time (hours or days) is valuable as we consider the ways weather forecasts, supply chain backlogs, labor/staffing issues, transportation problems, and the increased threat of flooding or wild fires can affect our facilities.

My overall takeaway from all this: Don’t be intimidated by the new or unknown. A world of “smart” EM starts with you and your team—and your shared desire to always be prepared.

For more information, don’t hesitate to contact me or the HAP emergency management team.



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