Disaster Preparedness

Preparing Your Practice for Emergencies

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, preparedness on September 30th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Preparing Your Practice for Emergencies

Paul Biddinger, MDBy Paul Biddinger, MD

Last in a series of articles in support of  the month-long Mass. Dept. of Public Health project, “Together We’re Ready-Massachusetts Prepared.”

Sometimes I hear physicians comment that they think that disaster planning is for those who are based primarily at a hospital.

As it turns out, care in a doctor’s office accounts for the majority of medical care delivered every day. Therefore, private medical practices are also a crucial part of our health care infrastructure that needs to be prepared for and resilient against disasters. No matter what the event, the physical health of our patients, and the financial health of our practices can depend on good disaster planning and preparedness by private medical practices and clinics.

While each practice should assess its own needs, there are some universal steps that all practices can take to better prepare.

The first thing to think about is communication, both with your patients and with your staff. Be proactive in educating patients on the proper way to contact your office. Post this information on your website and include it in your patient literature. Have ready access to contact information for your staff members including e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers. Know how to reach your EMR tech support vendors.

Further, you should maintain a list of local and state emergency and public health agencies so you can keep informed of official information such as shelter availability and road closures. Remember to periodically update this information and to keep a copy offsite. Since power is often down during a major disaster, consider keeping an old-fashioned phone in your office that does not require electricity.

Being able to access information is critical. Take steps to protect your EMR, billing, and financial records. Back-up all data regularly. If your charts are paper-only, devise a plan for preserving and protecting patient information. Check with your insurance company to make sure that you have adequate coverage for disasters likely to occur in your area. More information on protecting your practice is available at www.fema.gov.

Remember, the best time to plan for any disaster is before it occurs.

Dr. Biddinger, a practicing emergency physician, is the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves as the Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise Program (EPREP) at the Harvard School of Public Health and is chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Preparedness.

Ensuring That Patients are Prepared for Emergencies

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, preparedness on September 25th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Ensuring That Patients are Prepared for Emergencies

Paul Biddinger, MDBy Paul Biddinger, MD

Third in a series of articles in support of  the month-long Mass. Dept. of Public Health project, “Together We’re Ready – Massachusetts Prepared.”

When an emergency or disaster occurs, our patients can suffer, not just from the event itself, but also from the subsequent disruptions to access to medical care that disasters often cause.

Therefore, just as we support and protect the health of our patients with preventive health strategies such as wearing seatbelts and smoking cessation, so too should we be working with our patients to help make them more resilient in the face of emergencies and disasters.

There are several ways in which physicians can help their patients mitigate against the adverse effects of disasters.

First, we can encourage patients to maintain a copy of their updated medical history and all present medications.  They should be advised to keep these records and any other health related documents, such as health care proxies and insurance information, in a safe and accessible location.

Second, patients should be encouraged to make a habit of reviewing their medication supplies before anticipatable events, such as blizzards and hurricanes and try to work with their pharmacies and insurers to ensure an adequate supply of medications to last through the event.  Underscore the importance of having necessary prescriptions and medical supplies in case pharmacies are closed or medical equipment deliveries are disrupted.

Third, they should be alerted to the importance of having a good home emergency plan that includes provisions for food, water, environmental protection, and other considerations that will make them less vulnerable to emergencies.  Resources for home emergency planning can be found at www.ready.gov.

Lastly, communication is often one of the biggest problems commonly encountered during an emergency. Make sure your patients know the best way to contact you and what they should do in case they cannot.

Physicians who provide care for patients with chronic illnesses, cancer, or other special healthcare needs should emphasize the need to maintain existing medication and treatment regimens.

It is also helpful to discuss plans for how a patient would continue critical treatments, such as chemotherapy or dialysis, if the patient’s current treatment facility is closed or they need to evacuate.  Patients with an illness or disability are more likely to be vulnerable in an emergency.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has compiled a number of resources for individuals  with special healthcare needs  that can be shared with patients and caregivers.

Taking the opportunity to talk about medical preparedness with your patients now will help ensure they know what to do should a disaster strike.

Dr. Biddinger, a practicing emergency physician, is the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves as the Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise Program (EPREP) at the Harvard School of Public Health and is chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Preparedness.

Physician Volunteering: Get Involved!

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, preparedness on September 16th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Physician Volunteering: Get Involved!

Paul Biddinger, MDBy Paul Biddinger, MD

Second in a series of articles in support of  the month-long Mass. Dept. of Public Health project, “Together We’re Ready – Massachusetts Prepared.”

When a disaster or mass casualty event strikes, it is natural for people to want to help. Over the last two decades, medical volunteers have been asked to respond to numerous incidents, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, threats of pandemic disease and violent acts – in our own backyard and beyond.

Physician volunteers from all corners of medicine can provide invaluable expertise that augments and reinforces the front line emergency response efforts to support the local community immediately affected by the event.

Yet, while there is no doubt that physicians are uniquely qualified to provide aid when an emergency occurs, many doctors have yet to appreciate that the decision to volunteer is one that is best made well in advance of an actual event.

Well-meaning, but untrained and unverified volunteers who spontaneously show up after a disaster can sometimes make things worse, not better. Optimal medical volunteer response requires pre-planning, credentialing and orientation to the community response.

Whether you want your response to be as an individual or as part of a volunteer group, local or statewide, if you think you may want to assist, the best way to get involved is to register and affiliate with an established volunteer organization.

MA Responds is the Commonwealth’s online registration system used to manage volunteers in response to emergencies. There are four ways to volunteer within MA Responds including joining a local Medical Reserve Corps unit or becoming a state unaffiliated volunteer. I encourage you to learn more by visiting the MA Responds website.

The anniversary of September 11th reminds us that we never know when an emergency will occur. Taking a few minutes of your time to register today as a volunteer helps ensure that we will all be ready to respond when needed.

Dr. Biddinger, a practicing emergency physician, is the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves as the Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise Program (EPREP) at the Harvard School of Public Health and is chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Preparedness.

Emergency Preparedness: It’s Important for Physicians,Too

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, preparedness on September 8th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Emergency Preparedness: It’s Important for Physicians,Too

Paul Biddinger, MDBy Paul Biddinger, MD

First in a series of articles in support of  the month-long Mass. Dept. of Public Health project, “Together We’re Ready – Massachusetts Prepared.”

Recent weather events and the Boston Marathon bombings serve as an important reminder not only that an emergency or disaster can occur at any moment, but also remind us of the critical importance of emergency  preparedness efforts in advance of any event.

Those of us who practice disaster medicine and emergency medicine know firsthand the impact that pre-planning has on our ability to respond effectively; yet, it is important to remember that all physicians have an obligation to care for the ill and injured, and anyone may be needed to provide care during  a disaster.

The ability to respond efficiently and effectively, whether at your own institution or in a volunteer capacity, requires many things, but often starts at home with personal preparedness.

September is National Preparedness Month. Now is the time to put together that “go bag” of immediate items that your family may need in case of an emergency.  Equally important is having a clear family communication plan in the likely event that family members are not all in the same place when an emergency occurs.

A list of recommended supplies and a preparedness checklist are available online at www.mass.gov/dph/ready.   It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the available emergency information outlets, your community’s notification procedures, and the types of disaster events that are most likely to occur in your area.

Resilient communities are comprised of resilient individuals who know what to do and are able to take care of themselves and their family.

All physicians have a responsibility to prepare themselves, their families, their practices, and their patients. In an emergency, each of us will need to strike a balance between taking care of ourselves and our family and taking care of patients. The better prepared we are personally, the more likely we are to be successful at both.

Dr. Biddinger, a practicing emergency physician, is the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves as the Director of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Exercise Program (EPREP) at the Harvard School of Public Health and is chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Committee on Preparedness.

June Physician Focus: Disaster Medicine

Posted in Boston Marathon, Disaster Preparedness, Physician Focus, Public Health, Uncategorized on May 29th, 2013 by MMS Communications – Comments Off on June Physician Focus: Disaster Medicine

The bombings at the Boston Marathon showed once again that disasters, whether man-made or natural, can happen at any time, with little or no warning, and that the key to successfully handling such events lies in the preparation.

The medical community’s response to the bombings, generally regarded as a model example of emergency response, provides the starting point for a discussion of emergency preparedness and the specialty of disaster medicine in the June edition of Physician Focus.

Paul Biddinger, M.D.,  (right, photo) Chief of the Division of Emergency Preparedness and Medical Director of Emergency Department Operations at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and Mary-Elise Manuell, M.D., (center) Director of the Division of Disaster Medicine and Emergency Management at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, join host James Kenealy, M.D. (left) in describing the key elements to emergency preparedness and how disaster medicine is practiced.

Among a number of topics of conversation are the critical phase of planning and using a “whole community” approach to preparedness, the unique aspects of Boston that contributed to a successful response, how medical personnel and citizens can participate in response efforts, the contributions that battlefield experience in wars and cooperation with other countries have made to improved planning and response, and what smaller communities should consider in preparing for emergencies.

Physician Focus is available for viewing on public access television stations throughout Massachusetts and also available online at www.massmed.org/physicianfocus, www.physicianfocus.org and on iTunes at www.massmed.org/itunes.

Israel Trauma Coalition Workshops This Week

Posted in Boston Marathon, Disaster Preparedness, violence on May 6th, 2013 by MMS – Comments Off on Israel Trauma Coalition Workshops This Week

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) is arriving in Boston and offering two free workshops (on May 7, 9 and 10, as described below).  The number of available slots is limited, so Massachusetts physicians with an interest in participating should sign up right away.

These workshops are co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Department of Public Health (DPH) in collaboration with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).

Psychological First Aid & Resilience in the Aftermath of Terrorism (Workshop #1)

Workshop Summary: This workshop will discuss the impacts of disaster on individuals and communities, techniques for working with impacted populations, and when to triage individuals to additional support.  Attendees will also learn the importance of self care and the importance of resilience both individually and for a community.  The Israel Trauma Coalition will incorporate their own response experience into the training.

Target Group: Licensed mental health clinicians or individuals who have served as crisis counselors in emergencies

Dates: May 7th or 10th (9am – 3pm)

May 7 – Location & Registration

May 10 – Location & Registration

  •  Boston Medical Intelligence Center.  This is located within Boston EMS Headquarters, Miranda-Creamer Building, 35 Northampton Street, Boston MA.  As you enter the garage there will be a large blue sign that reads Miranda-Creamer Elevators and a blue door on your far right. Exit the garage through that door and take elevator to the 6th floor. Once off the elevators, go through the double doors to your right. The Lawlor Regional Medical Intelligence Center is the fourth door on the right.
  • Register for May 10th at: http://psychologicalresilience2.eventbrite.com

Introduction to Disaster Behavioral Health & the Impact Of Disaster On Communities (Workshop #2)

Workshop Summary: This workshop will provide an introduction to the psychological impacts of disaster on the community and how community members can assist individuals who have been impacted. A particular focus of the workshop will be the impact of terrorist events on immigrant communities.

Target Group: Social service employees, healthcare professionals, clergy and other natural helpers and community leaders

Date: May 9th (1 – 4pm)

Please Note:

  • Though registration is required, trainings are free and open.
  • Lunch will not be provided at these events.
  • CME credit will not be offered.
  • Free on site parking is available at the Westborough workshop.  $5 garage parking is available at the Boston Medical Intelligence Center.  Attendees to the Lindeman Center trainings are strongly encouraged to take public transportation.  Paid parking and limited on street metered parking is available.

For further information contact Liam Seward (Director of Program Implementation and Emergency Management, DMH): Liam.Seward@State.MA.US (617) 626-8170

About ITC

The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) was created in 2001, on the initiative of the UJA-Federation of New York. Expanding from Direct Care to encompass Professional Training, Community-wide Interventions and emergency preparedness, ITC has consistently evolved its scope to address broader issues and needs.

The mission of the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC) is to create a continuum of care in the trauma field, response and preparedness, by leveraging diverse resources to initiate, prioritize, and optimize services. The ITC provides a comprehensive view of the trauma field, whilst working towards strengthening community resilience and ensuring national emergency preparedness. The ITC harnesses the collective knowledge, expertise and experience of Israel’s leading NGO’s and government organizations- as no organization can do this work alone.