Disaster or learning opportunity?

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

When one door shuts, another door opens. Or so the maxim goes.

But how about when doors — and roofs — get blown away? Or doors and walls get burned to the ground? Or flooded? Or worse?

Millions of individuals, among them numerous providers and their long-term care residents, have had to wrestle with such unwelcome realities over the last five months. More will in the future, just as countless many have in the past, if the full truth be told.

Most recently, that's reference to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, of course. Other disasters, such as wildfires, tornadoes or manmade messes such as chemical spills, also have vexed providers and regular civilians. Some of them recently, some in the past. Some in the future.

That's why it pays to know that amid the byzantine architecture of the Department of Health and Human Services there are QIN-QIOs. That's Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Networks for those with plenty of ink in their cartridges.

Perhaps just another bureaucratic blip to many, QIN-QIOs justified their existence many times over in August and September this year, when hurricanes devastated parts of the the Southeast and Caribbean.

QIN-QIOs were there to help those affected. And they'll be there for anyone who might foolishly think they'll never be affected.

Two of the quality networks recently issued lessons learned from the fall carnage. The insights can be helpful for any provider, including those far beyond hurricane and wildfire zones.

What do you need to keep in mind? For one, remember that “No two disasters are the same, and unique, unexpected challenges are almost guaranteed.”

More from the TMF Quality Innovation Network:

  1. QIN-QIOs have expansive, helpful networks of professionals already on the ground in case of a disaster. Tap this network.

  2. Distributing medications is often overlooked in disaster planning. If your residents don't take any medications, skip this item. (Now THAT's dry humor, folks.)

  3. Your staff members also can be victims of a disaster. Make sure your staff members are safe — both physically and mentally — and get them and their family members any help they need to be healthy and out of harm's way.

And a few from the Health Services Advisory Group, which assists other parts of the country:

  1. Social media can be a bane sometimes under normal conditions, but Facebook can be a great tool in times of disaster. Use it to communicate with family, friends and staff. Government entities resort to it more often, too. Even if a disaster has prevented some people from accessing the internet, others are usually willing to share access and knowledge in times of dire need.

  2. Partner with as many local public health and safety organizations as possible. Again, your residents, neighbors, friends and staff members all may look to you for advice about linking to various providers, health agencies and suppliers.

  3. And, finally, simply have your plan ready. It's the right thing to do, and besides, there are plenty of plaintiff's lawyers waiting to bite a chunk out of you if you aren't fully equipped with a realistic emergency preparedness plan when calamity hits.

“QIN-QIOs can make life-changing differences in the lives of victims and their families,” the December issue of QIO News reminds.

It's a sentiment worth remembering. Disasters don't play favorites. They come for everyone eventually. You might as well be prepared.

Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.