May 17, 2020

Disaster Preparation in Hospitals: Is Your Hospital Ready?

3 min
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Written by AngieMansfield Are You Truly Ready for an Emergency? As a hospital worker or administrator, you know how important it is to be prepared in...

Written by Angie Mansfield


Are You Truly Ready for an Emergency?

As a hospital worker or administrator, you know how important it is to be prepared in case of emergencies such as natural disasters.

But, while you may have a plan in place that meets state licensure or JCAHO requirements, your plan may not go far enough in the event of a major emergency.

Here are a few tips to make sure your disaster plan keeps you and your staff truly prepared:

Create a Committee

A disaster planning committee should be responsible for creating and implementing your hospital's disaster plan. The committee should include representatives from all departments in the hospital, including medical staff, administration, nursing staff, security, and communications.

By having a rep from every department, you'll be sure that every department's needs are addressed in your disaster plan.

Start Formulating a Plan

Once formed, your committee should consider every type of disaster your hospital may face.

Depending on your geographic location, this could mean hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and more.

Next, have the committee assess your hospital's ability to handle a disaster, looking for any potential problem areas and concerns that need to be addressed. Inspect the entire hospital property and determine how a disaster might affect the building. Think about how health care will be provided during adverse conditions.

Things to Look For

Specific areas to look for during the assessment include:

* Does the property have a well connected to the emergency generator?

* If the local water supply is interrupted, how will water be rationed?

* Do any outside triage areas have sufficient power connected to the emergency generator?

* How will you provide food for everyone if it becomes difficult or impossible to leave the hospital grounds for several days?

* Do you have enough supplies on hand to keep the hospital going for at least 72 hours after a major disaster?

Cooperation with Other Agencies

Your disaster plan needs to address how your hospital will work with outside agencies to ensure enough supplies and evacuation abilities for the area. One way to do this is to form partnerships with other area hospitals to exchange personnel, equipment, and other needed items.

You'll also need to consider patients who may not be in the hospital at the time of the emergency, such as dialysis patients treated on an outpatient basis.

By discussing plans with family members to evacuate these patients, and ensuring you'll be able to quickly provide their locations to emergency agencies, you can improve these patients' chances of reaching safety and treatment.

Include the Aftermath in Your Plan

Many disaster plans only cover the actual emergency, and not the mountain of work your hospital will face once the danger is over. You'll have to have a complete inventory of all hospital assets to give to insurance agents in case of damage.

Have a plan in place for who will conduct post-emergency property assessments and file damage claims with your insurance carrier.

It will take time to come up with a comprehensive disaster plan that will ensure your hospital is ready for anything.

But if an emergency should strike, this planning phase will be more than worth it.


About the Author

Freelance blogger Angie Mansfield covers a variety of topics for both individuals and small business owners. Her work addresses such things as management, marketing, and social media recruitment.

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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