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Nursing home disaster planning software

Previstar : 09 September, 2008  (New Product)
Sacramento Conference sees launch of software for central administrative resource and disaster planning for nursing homes
As tornadoes roared through central Georgia earlier this year, nursing home managers were faced with some daunting challenges. Power grids were knocked out, darkness was descending, and roads were strewn with debris causing long term care facilities to shelter-in-place.

These facilities turned to state and local agencies for support. Support agencies knew the locations of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities within their respective regions, but did not have a clear operating picture of what they were dealing with at each facility, i.e.: number of beds, resident characteristics, food and supplies on hand, generator details and evacuation sites.

The shelter-in-place strategy proved effective and power was restored, but the incident was a wake-up call—one that was answered by the Georgia Nursing Home Preparedness Project - the results of which will be on view this week at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and National Association of City & County Health Officials (ASTHO-NACCHO) Joint Conference in Sacramento, California.

This initiative brought together over 300 of the state's nursing homes, the University of Georgia's College of Public Health, and key agencies within the State of Georgia's Department of Human Resources to grapple with these and other issues like:

* How can state and local agencies and long term care facilities improve their information sharing to enhance resiliency during disruptive events?
* What if evacuations are necessary, but transportation contractors were overwhelmed and couldn't meet the needs?
* How do you improve visibility of available resources needed to support special needs evacuees?
* Are there ways to streamline the state's regulatory process for nursing home emergency operations planning?

The consortium developed a plan for a new system and worked with Previstar, a leader in disaster preparedness software, to create a streamlined solution to meet their needs. Previstar quickly provides customized solution

Using Previstar's Continual Preparedness System (CPS) as a foundation, the project team created a customized, web based, emergency preparedness and decision support system that fits their specific needs, specific patient care terminology, and is accessible by authorized personnel from any location.

Currently called Previstar LTC (Long Term Care), the solution facilitates - among other things - data assimilation for emergency operations plans, transportation agreements, bed counts, and patient acuity/mobility levels.

"Previstar makes information more accessible and decision making more acute by gathering everything we need from each facility into one easy-to-search location," said Mike Roberts, Manager, College of Public Health at the University of Georgia.

To gain acceptance, the system was deliberately designed by state leaders to be simple and easy to use. In less than one week, over 150 nursing homes completed the one-hour training. Additional training will be provided to the remaining facilities during the ongoing project phases and is also available online.

"Critical information is now in a central repository so that agency personnel and facility managers can make well-informed and timely decisions prior to or during a crisis," said Jim Fetters, Previstar's President and COO. "This solution focuses resources precisely where they are needed, delivering results that are nothing short of lifesaving."

"Locating information in the past has been challenging, because it was in different media—like spreadsheets, binders, notebooks and databases—all located at different facilities," said Project Subcommittee Chair, Kim Herron, who is also Vice President of Resource Management at Ethica Health and Retirement Communities.

Previstar LTC is built on a Microsoft SQL Server database that assimilates, organizes and presents data as usable and searchable information.

"(The system) allows us to be more proactive," she continued, "Now, if a power grid is out, we—as well as local and state officials—can easily see which nursing homes may be affected and can identify where additional resources may be needed. We can all see potential overlaps in committed resources, such as transportation providers and shelters."

An additional aspect of the project was improving operational efficiencies and a more standardized approach to preparedness for both the nursing homes and regulatory agencies. The Previstar LTC provides a standardized, repeatable framework for the creation and submission of critical elements of nursing home emergency operations plans to the Office of Regulatory Services, the State of Georgia's regulatory agency that oversees long term care facilities.

"These are all key elements of your disaster plan," said Herron. "Ones that you want to identify prior to, and not during a disaster."
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