Resources: The Cost Effectiveness of Healthcare Disaster Readiness

I am writing this from beautiful Killeen, Texas, where my arteries are attempting to recover from perhaps the best Rib Eye steak I have ever eaten.  On the heels of the 24 hour news coverage of the Swine Flu, I began thinking of what it might take to convince healthcare executives to re-examine the idea of “Medical Readiness” from a cost/benefit perspective.  Let me lay out the benefits first, since even my family has resorted to telling me my mindset is too gloomy.

  1. Every Healthcare Executive knows that being the best healthcare alternative in their community means success. Based on that safe assumption, the healthcare executive can accurately assert:
    1. The Healthcare Organization has developed a “Corporate Culture of Disaster Readiness” which will mean that community members have the best chance of receiving health services at his/her hospital during and after the disasters most likely to affect the Community.
    2. The Healthcare Organization has standardized the medical supplies and equipment across the entire Health System in a manner that simultaneously drives costs out of the supply system (meaning less expense for patients) and gives the health system vendors a much better chance of stocking higher levels of these standardized materials and delivering these materials during and after disasters.
    3. The Health System will be able to recover much sooner than competing healthcare organizations, since it fully understands the things it needs to do to bolster its defenses against disasters.
    4. Even in the worst case scenario, the Health System understands the FEMA Disaster Public Assistance Grant Program. Thus, they know how to obtain FEMA recovery dollars and get back to providing health care, while competitors begin the learning process only when FEMA comes to town.
    5. The CEO knows full well that he/she is a Community Steward for Healthcare Services and is dedicated to “Good Stewardship.” It just doesn’t get any better than a CEO telling the Community truthfully that the Board of Directors is a very important oversight body, but the Community’s healthcare comes first.
  2. OK, now the negative side of this argument for the less altruistic and those fatalistic CEOs who are certain a disaster will not happen to them. Not even a Worldwide Pandemic or a National Terror Attack that generates tens of thousands of patients will impact them in any meaningful way.  If you work for one of these poor souls, your road will be a long one.  Still, these ideas may work.
    1. Consider what the resume of the CEO will look like to future employers when the last Health System he/she led has vanished off the face of the earth.
    2. Imagine the scrutiny of healthcare insurance companies when they discover they are insuring an organization whose CEO left his/her last healthcare organization in shambles.
    3. Imagine the Board of Directors’ reaction to an incoming CEO who totally let down his/her former Board of Directors.
    4. Imagine a community who finds itself with a choice between a Disaster-Ready CEO across town and the new CEO arriving from a health system that left his/her community without healthcare.
  3. While I am all for using the approach in #1 above, it may be time to put both approaches on the table at Health Systems Board Rooms across America.

Postscript: I once had a boss who said of a potential disaster…”The worst that can happen to me is that I’m forced to retire.” I wish I was fast enough on my feet to say to that guy “No, that’s not the worst thing that can happen to you….the worst thing that can happen to you is that you go through the rest of your life knowing that your inaction and poor stewardship caused many deaths and untold suffering in the community that trusted you to care for its people.”

Take care of yourselves and your communities.
Jim Rush

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