My previous post discussed community feedback received after 9/11 on federal plans for improving preparedness. We learned from healthcare operators that adding excess hospital capacity ‘just in case’ was not financially sustainable. Their strategy for coping with mass casualty events was to stabilize and transport casualties to larger regional healthcare facilities and request external resources from State and Federal agencies.
Covid illuminated differences between infectious epidemics and localized natural and man-made disasters. Spreading large numbers of infected patients across states and regions can be problematic. Spikes during the pandemic unpredictably increased local demands for supplies and trained healthcare workers. Unfortunately, it takes time to familiarize new medical staff with each hospital’s systems, procedures, and protocols.
An alternative strategy made possible by new and emerging technologies is to dynamically reallocate resources and functions to temporarily increase productive capacity at critical points. I will discuss the roles of technology and operational elasticity in my next post.