Reflecting on 2017, Ready for 2018

Reflecting on 2017, Ready for 2018

January 1, 2018

2017 was one of milestones for Healthcare Ready. An unprecedented hurricane season led to our longest activation. We responded to our first cyber event. We welcomed new leadership. 2017 also marks our 10-year anniversary, capping a decade of work safeguarding patient health by helping the healthcare system respond to and recover from disasters and emergencies.

As we look back on the year – as well as the past 10 years – we are incredibly thankful for our partners, each of whom have made indispensable contributions to our healthcare system’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities. This year and the past 10 also remind us of the unpredictable, unrelenting nature of disasters and threats to patient and community health. This year alone saw a record-breaking hurricane season, record-breaking wildfires, large-scale cyber-attacks on healthcare, and disease outbreaks, including Hepatitis A and continued concerns about Zika. These events, let alone the threats of the past decade, including H1N1 and Hurricane Sandy, underscore that it is critical that we and every other healthcare stakeholder remain nimble and prepared for years to come.

We sought not only to increase our own preparedness with our annual exercise of Rx Open, but to also get a deeper understanding of national and community attitudes preparedness with our second annual nationwide poll.  We built on insights gained from the poll by hosting as series of roundtable events designed to examine the unique challenges different patient populations face with our Diseases and Disasters series. The implementation of the CMS regulation on emergency preparedness proved to be defining event of healthcare preparedness this year as well, helping to nudge preparedness more prominently onto the radar. (And judging by the questions we’ve received and discussions we’ve participated in during trainings, the rule will maintain a place of prominence next year and beyond.)

What we’ll remember the most from this year though, of course, will be hurricane season. IN our 70+ days of activation during this time , we mapped the operating status of over 16,500 pharmacies with Rx Open and positively impacted over 74 million people through our relief and response efforts across 9 states and territories.

 During the three major hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – Healthcare Ready served as the liaison between both government agencies and private companies, maximizing their unique strengths and abilities to make the best possible impact across the affected areas. This year, perhaps more so than any year since our founding, we’ve seen how valuable it is to have an organization dedicated to public-private coordination.

2017 also called our attention to the need for better patient education on disaster preparedness and response. We saw this in the results of our poll and then experienced it first-hand during our activation, when scores of patients called, emailed and tweeted with questions of where to go to receive refills, or even how to go about replacing medicines. That’s why we have worked fervently over the past year to raise awareness of Rx Open, connecting patients to open pharmacies and Rx on the Run, a personalized wallet card that documents prescriptions and important medical information. We’re eager to build on the functionalities of both of these resources in 2018. In addition, our “Preparing for a Disaster” tip sheet includes best practices on how patients can plan ahead and be prepared before a state of emergency.   

Following such an historic hurricane season – one situated within a year that saw the opioid crisis compound, multiple cyber-attacks on healthcare, disease outbreaks, and routine weather events such as snowstorms – 2018 requires an even more concerted effort to build resilience into our healthcare system. As we work with partners to develop and begin to implement recovery strategies in disaster-impacted areas, the notion that our healthcare system is interdependent will influence and shape everything that we do.  Ensuring communities have access to medicines can be threatened by a seemingly endless number of events, such as blocked roads, loss of electricity or lack of fuel, and disabled communications. Healthcare’s interdependency on other sectors is why we remain activated in Puerto Rico and committed to helping pave the way to resiliencies for those communities in need.

2017 was an incredibly busy year, both for our team and for our partners. Scores of hours of conference calls during activations and thousands of emails (helped by countless cups of coffee) have reaffirmed that partners in healthcare and public health preparedness and response are among the most dedicated, committed and caring you’ll find. We continue to be blown away by this community’s commitment to patient well-being and were honored to work alongside them this year. With 2018 here and already underway, we look forward to working with them in continuing to safeguard our healthcare system – and the millions of patients it supports – this year and beyond.

Nicolette Louissaint, Ph.D.

Dr. Nicolette A. Louissaint is the Executive Director of Healthcare Ready. Prior to this position, Nicolette served as the organization's Director of Programming. Before joining Healthcare Ready Nicolette served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. During the height of the Ebola Epidemic of 2014, Nicolette served as the Senior Advisor to the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Ebola.