Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Emergency Preparedness in Radiology

Published on the Oct. 5, 2017 DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney J. Palmer

“All the roads were flooded in Houston around the hospital,” said Susan John, MD, chair of diagnostic and interventional imaging at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. “No one came in or out after Saturday night, and the waters didn’t recede until Monday.”

That was the scene in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 3 storm that hit Houston in late August, causing massive destruction and city-wide flooding. In the middle of the havoc, though, medical personnel, including radiologists, continued to provide necessary patient care services.

Staying active during and following a hurricane is possible, she said. To do so, though, practices and departments must follow emergency protocols. In many cases, especially for radiologists affected by Harvey and Hurricane Irma, a Category 3 storm that struck south Florida in early September, these policies were the result of lessons learned from past experiences.
They can serve as a guide for you or others if you, one day, find yourself facing a hurricane. And, if you handle preparedness well, said Benjamin Freedman, MD, chief of radiology at Memorial Healthcare System in Florida, you’ll not only safeguard your quality of care, but you could also improve your relationships.
“Sharing a safe place really can serve to strengthen the relationship between the group of radiologists working together and the referring physicians, technologists, staff, and administrators,” he said.
Planning Personnel
Establish a coverage schedule well in advance of a storm, Freedman said. Don’t wait to assign shifts at the last minute — that creates unneeded stress and confusion. Additionally, plan to have enough providers and staff on-hand during the storm. Adequate personnel is critical, he said.

“It’s the natural inclination during a storm to have as few people at the hospital as possible to keep your staff safe,” he said. “But, you actually need enough people there so everyone working during the storm won’t get burned out over the several days everyone might be stuck in the hospital.”
Texas’s Heath Science Center, which serves Memorial Hermann Healthcare System and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, addressed this problem by relying on existing work schedules to assign hurricane coverage. Instead of creating new hurricane schedules, staff already scheduled to work when the hurricane hit stayed on call during the storm, John said. They were divided into two teams — ride out (those who stayed in-house and worked during the storm) and recovery (those who provided aftermath relief).
Communicate clearly, early, and often with your staff, she said, so they know which team they’re on.
“People need to have enough time to make arrangements for their families and to prepare themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally,” she said.
Changing teams can be tricky after a storm, said Kelly Burton, imaging manager for Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital. It can take a while for your recovery team to safely make it back to work, and you must maintain staffing until then. Her facility ensured enough staff were on hand by requiring ride out and recovery team members to physically “High 5” as they traded spots — that way, she said, everyone knew their replacement had arrived.
Work with IT Staff

Before any major storm hits, Freedman said, talk with your IT staff about any steps needed to strengthen your PACS system or how you or your colleagues might be able to provide services remotely.

In addition, work with IT personnel to disseminate all downtime procedures so everyone knows the process for continuing to provide care if your facility loses communication capabilities during the storm.
“We had a book of downtime procedures at every work station so if communications or power went down and we were dependent on a generator, our radiologists would still know what to do,” he said.
The handbook was helpful, he said, when one CT scanner lost contact with the Memorial PACS system. Instead of halting services, radiologists read and interpreted studies off the scanner itself.
To read the remainder of the article, click here.


October 23, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment


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