Mobile Coach Innovative Part Of Community Disaster Response Plan

In the healthcare industry, we need to be armed with the tools and resources to be prepared for anything and everything. That includes being able to implement a disaster response plan whenever it’s needed. Just as a family teaches its children what to do if an emergency arises — if the house catches on fire, evacuate immediately and call 911, or if there’s a tornado in the area, assume a protective position in the basement away from windows or doors — health systems must do the same for community emergencies.

Health systems formulate many plans, including state, regional, hospital and departmental, for disaster preparedness. These plans include how to integrate with community partners to provide the best and most comprehensive response for the health and safety of our community. This past June, Mount Carmel participated in a hospital disaster response drill which, for the first time, included the use of the Mobile Medical Coach at Mount Carmel New Albany.

“Almost two years ago, Brian (Pierson, Mount Carmel Outreach Regional Director) and I started talking about how this idea would fit,” said Gina Birko-Burris, Mount Carmel System Safety and Emergency Management Administrator. “How do we integrate the Mobile Coach and Mission Services into a more robust hospital plan to provide support and services in the event of a communitywide emergency?”

Because Mount Carmel New Albany is a hospital that specializes in orthopedic care, there is no Emergency Department or dedicated emergency personnel at the site. However, in the case of a community emergency, community members likely would come to this care site for immediate medical attention. This drill in June was executed to put into practice a plan that would address this community need.

The Mobile Medical Coach and Outreach team are prepared to mobilize in the event of an emergency, providing additional medical assistance needed by community members. This team of 60 that is designed to deal with urgent matters includes physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, chaplains and bilingual case workers.

Opportunities for Mobile Medical Coach assistance encompass the entire health system and surrounding communities. “If there is a site-specific emergency, the Mobile Coach can deploy to outside the Emergency Department to assist with primary and secondary triage, determining which patients need to be moved into the hospital,” Birko-Burris explains. This would allow the sicker people who really need emergent care to obtain services at the hospital, while providing medical services to those who require lesser care in the Coach.

The Mobile Medical Coach, a pillar of Mount Carmel Outreach, plays an integral role in providing care to the poor and underserved in our communities. When strategic planning for the Mobile Medical Coach began, “we knew that the need for the Coach and the services it provides would continue to evolve to fit the changing health needs of our community,” said Pierson. “This progressive vision is what has allowed us as a health system to align ourselves with, and adapt to, the ever-changing healthcare environment, and the Mobile Coach is certainly a large part of that.”

With resoundingly positive feedback from staff in the after-action report, plans are evolving for the Mobile Medical Coach to be more permanently integrated into Mount Carmel’s disaster response plan. “Pulling our resources together to provide better services to the community,” says Birko-Burris, “is the right thing to do.”

This article was originally published in the 2015 Annual Report to the Community.