Collaboration in Response to Disaster
It's hard to imagine the devastation of a large-scale disaster like that of Typhoon Yolanda in November of last year.
As the New England Journal of Medicine reports, an Israeli medical team that arrived in the days following the storm found a pretty desperate situation. Throughout the Philippines, more than 5,000 people were confirmed dead and 22,000 were still reported missing. Upon reporting to the hospital, where the Israeli team was to work, they found 120 hospitalized patients, no electricity, no running water, and an Operating Room with a staff of 2.
The World Health Organization guidelines suggest that a team like this one should set up their own hospital, not integrating or collaborating with teams on the ground. But the Israeli team had a strong sense that an unintegrated path wouldn't be the best course of action. Within hours, they worked with the Philippine hospital and local resources to create an integrated plan for medical collaboration.
And within 10 days, this collaborative, transnational team of medical providers deftly dealt with 2,686 cases.
What allowed them this kind of success in such difficult conditions?
This brave team gives medical collaboration takeaways anyone can learn from:
- Accepting resource limitations. We all have limited resources, and sometimes these limitations can seem insurmountable. For this team, however, giving up was not an option, so they accepted their resources and did whatever they could within them.
- Being willing to go against protocol. Despite the WHO guidelines, this team decided to collaborate and integrate. It was a risk, but it seemed like the right thing to do for the patients, so they went with it. Their success was their reward.
- Open communication and quick decisions. One of the most important pieces of this story is the way that decisions were made quickly, but with transparency, and good communication. Sometimes people think that communication has to be sacrificed for speed. But this high-pressure situation shows that good communication actually facilitated a speedy response.
- Clear lines of responsibility. We've covered the ways that clear lines of responsibility decrease length of stay and drop readmissions. Similarly, having very clear roles and responsibilities helped this team quickly triage and treat, without duplication or gaps in care.
As the team said, reflecting on the experience: "Following a cooperative model may pose some challenges… In this instance, however, by relinquishing our well-established habit of operating as a highly independent unit, we found that, when feasible, a cooperative model can have additional and important benefits for the victims of a disaster."
For more medical collaboration stories and strategies, get our Quick Guide to Medical Collaboration:
Image courtesy of ihhinsaniyardimvakfi on flickr.com, used under Creative Commons rights.