Docs at Front Line of Terror War.
Are we prepared?
Bolstering the Front Lines of Healthcare
Temte says hospitals are better prepared for dealing with
disasters than individual physicians because healthcare organizations have to
go through accreditation processes that require disaster training, and doctors
Although no significant, post-9/11 changes have been made to
the emergency management standards all hospitals must meet for accreditation,
some of the language within the standards has been revised based on the
experiences of organizations that responded to the terrorist attack.
The revised standards call for more cooperative planning
between organizations. Those that provide services to nearby areas must pool
information and resources in case of an emergency.
In addition, the AHRQ recently unveiled a new hospital
bioterrorism preparedness tool that healthcare organizations can use as a
checklist to assess their ability to handle potential victims of bioterrorist
attacks and evaluate existing emergency plans.
"In this context of bioterrorism, the hospital and
healthcare providers are the front line," says Helen Burstin, MD, MPH,
director of the center for primary care research at AHRQ. "One thing that
becomes very clear is that in the event of a bioterrorist attack, people will
go to either their local physician's office or emergency room."
"Since they are so clearly part of the picture in a way
that they may not be for other natural disasters, you really need to make sure
that the hospitals are prepared to handle it," Burstin tells WebMD.
While awareness of the potential for bioterrorism may have
waned since the initial explosion of interest last fall, experts say that, in
general, healthcare providers have learned some hard, but necessary lessons and
are better equipped to deal with disaster than a year ago.
"There is a smoldering interest, and with sufficient need
it's going to burst into flames again," says Temte. "If everyone is on
the lookout for bioterrorism, we are going to have a lot of misdiagnoses. For
now, we're at point where we have more information available and that's a good
place to be."