In a matter of months, Coronavirus rapidly evolved from an emergent, localized threat to a global healthcare challenge. This unfortunately isn’t the first time an infectious disease has stressed the global healthcare community. Whether it’s new strains of flu, novel viruses like SARS or MERs, or exceptionally bad outbreaks of Ebola, emergent health threats are becoming a new normal in healthcare.

It’s impossible to predict when a serious outbreak may occur, but hospitals, senior living centers and other healthcare organizations have the unique responsibility of always being prepared for one. And as with any disaster preparedness, it’s important to have a solid plan in place now – before you need it.

The key strategies in preparing for a crisis like Coronavirus include information dissemination and training and assessment – both for knowledge and observed skills. You need the ability to immediately share new and rapidly changing information while also training or retraining affected team members. In addition, it’s critical to also have a way to validate that they have seen new information, and in many cases, to also know that they understand the information and can demonstrate any physical skills related to the training.

According to an article in NPR, many experts are skeptical that facilities in the US have the capacity to handle a surging severe epidemic. Do you feel your facility is emergency-ready? For starters, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have an infrastructure in place through which you can immediately distribute pertinent information or training to your effected teams, healthcare organization or even to the local community?
  • Does your infrastructure allow you to create new content for your organization in response to new information? Alternately, can you consume content from a third party – either as a simple sign-off after reading a PDF or as a full-blown course or even full curriculum?
  • Do you have a way to validate that your staff not only has read any change to care or safety protocols but can also demonstrate the knowledge and skills to treat patients safely and correctly?
  • Does your hospital have a robust library of core training content that you can deploy as refresher training – particularly around infection control practices, triage, and health and safety practices?
  • Do you have established emergency preparedness protocols and process in place?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, you might find it a bit challenging to react in real-time to an emerging health crisis. While it’s difficult to predict exactly which emergency response strategy you’ll need for the next local or global health crisis (or even this one as it continues to evolve), the above questions provide some indication of what a good solution or set of solutions might look like.

For many organizations, the learning management system (LMS) is the first and best answer to most of the above questions. A modern LMS can help keep your team informed, ensure they have the necessary skills and training, and assess the knowledge and skills of your employees to determine if they have the information and skills to safely and effectively combat whatever new health threats emerge in your community.

While an LMS is a great first step, it’s also important to optimize the LMS to specifically address the kinds of challenges a crisis like Coronavirus presents. For example:

  • Can you distribute content easily to specific groups by role?
  • Can you assess content that you didn’t create? For example, if you want to link to federally created content or CDC alerts, can you somehow confirm that people read the information?
  • Can you create tests that can help you determine if they understand the information?
  • Can you evaluate physical skills and competencies like hand washing, infectious disease procedures, hazmat suite and containment practices?

If you have an LMS but answered “no” to some of the above, it’s worth revisiting the capabilities of your solution to understand if these are true system limitations, or just a result of configuration and therefore addressable. If they aren’t addressable, it could be time to look for a new solution that can handle the above requirements.

In times of healthcare crisis – especially those involving new disease vectors or the emergence of new pathogens – remember that your technology will play a critical role in your treatment and containment strategy.

About David Wilkins

As Chief Strategy Officer at HealthcareSource, Dave leads marketing strategy, overseeing corporate marketing, product marketing, and strategic alliances. Previously, he co-founded the Oracle Sales Academy, a sales enablement organization serving Oracle’s global sales team. Prior to Oracle, Dave was Head of Taleo Research where he was recognized as an industry thought leader in the field of Human Capital Management. Dave has also served as VP of Product Marketing for and as Chief Strategy Officer for Knowledge Impact where he spearheaded OEM relationships with PeopleSoft, Clarify, and Witness Systems. In 2010, Dave keynoted the national Training conference, and in 2011, the ATD Chapter Leaders Conference. Dave received his bachelor of arts from University of New Hampshire.