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Medical Facility Contingency Planning

Jesus Yap

Brightwood College


What would you do in the event of a disaster? What if you can’t get in to the building? What do

you do about patients scheduled for that day, notifying Staff, accessing important patient

information? What if the medical hospital’s unencrypted server was hacked and the data was

held hostage? These are some few questions we ask ourselves when creating a plan on how to

continue medical operation when such catastrophic event has happened or about to happen.

Under HIPAA law, it is critical that medical practices must have a well thought and documented

contingency plan.

Listed below are 10 Steps in Contingency Planning that a medical facility can use in ensuring a

solid plan is in place. This guidance covers most emergency conditions such as fire, vandalism,

system failure, and natural disasters.


1. COMMAND AND CONTROL (C2): Activate the hospital incident command group

(ICG) or establish a supervisory body responsible for directing hospital-based emergency

management operations. C2 is the decision-making system responsible for activating,

coordinating, implementing, adapting and terminating a pre-established response plan.

2. COMMUNICATION: Clear, accurate and timely communication is necessary to ensure

informed decision-making, effective collaboration and cooperation, and public awareness

and trust.

3. SAFETY AND SECURITY: Well-developed safety and security procedures are essential

for the maintenance of hospital functions and for incident response operations during a


4. DATA BACK UP: Ensures medical records, digital x-rays, and test results are backed up

offsite and in an encrypted format. Responsible for ensuring data can still be available

during an emergency.

5. TRIAGE: Maintaining patient triage operations, on the basis of a well-functioning mass-

casualty triage protocol. This is essential for the appropriate organization of patient care.

6. SURGE CAPACITY: Surge capacity – defined as the ability of a health service to

expand beyond normal capacity to meet increased demand for clinical care. This is a

critical factor of hospital disaster response and should be addressed early in the planning


7. CONTINUITY OF ESSENTIAL SERVICES: A disaster does not remove the day-to-day

requirement for essential medical and surgical services (e.g. emergency care, urgent

operations, maternal and child care) that exists under normal circumstances. Rather, the

availability of essential services needs to continue in parallel with the activation of a

hospital emergency response plan.

8. HUMAN RESOURCES: Effective human resource management is essential to ensure

adequate staff capacity and the continuity of operations during any incident that increases

the demand for human resources.

9. LOGISTIC AND SUPPLY MANAGEMENT: Continuity of the hospital supply and

delivery chain is often an underestimated challenge during a disaster, requiring attentive

contingency planning and response.

10. POST-DISASTER RECOVERY: Post-disaster recovery planning should be performed at

the onset of response activities. Prompt implementation of recovery efforts can help

mitigate a disaster’s long-term impact on hospital operations.

Do not wait for a disaster to happen before designing and implementing a contingency plan. Be

proactive and put a plan in place even though chances are slim that you will ever need it. Having

a solid contingency plan on hand is very important because it can save hundreds or maybe

thousands of lives. When disaster occurs, people panic if they do not have a clear plan of action

to follow. A well-documented contingency plan allows employees to move quickly into recovery

mode rather than waiting for instruction. When everyone knows where to go, what to do and who

to turn to for instruction, order can be maintained. Preventing panic allows managers to focus

efforts on recovery operations to minimize loss.



Dr. Brian S. Sorensen Attending Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and

Women’s Hospital Associate Faculty, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative Instructor of Medicine,

Harvard Medical School Boston United States of America

Dr. Richard D. Zane Vice Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women’s

Hospital Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Boston United States of


Mr. Barry E. Wante Director of Emergency Management, Center for Emergency Preparedness

Brigham and Women’s Hospital Boston United States of America

Dr. Mitesh B. Rao Emergency Physician, Yale-New Haven Hospital New Haven, Connecticut

United States of America

Dr. Michelangelo Bortolin Emergency Physician, Torino Emergency Medical Services Adjunct

Faculty, Harvard-affiliated Disaster Medicine Fellowship Torino Italy

Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub Programme Manager, Country Emergency Preparedness Programme

WHO Regional Office for Europe Copenhagen Denmark