What does it take to provide patient care? The image of a hospital or doctor’s office just popped into your mind, right? Well, that’s just part of the answer.
Every day, patients rely on complex just-in-time systems for the provision of healthcare. These systems include not only hospitals and other healthcare providers, but also insurance providers, laboratories, medical device suppliers, and more.
Working together, these systems can provide just-in-time supplies of everything from the drugs and therapeutic products to the blood and medical testing needed for patient care. When these systems are working, they can be used to support today’s miracles of modern medicine. Yet when supply chains are disrupted – whether by wildfires, hurricanes, cyber attacks on medical records and payment IT systems, or other issues related to healthcare infrastructure – patient health, even patient lives, are at risk.
Just-in-time re-supply has become the predominant business practice to support modern medicine; however, there is no such thing as just-in-time preparedness. In order to be ready to protect patient health during a disaster or public health emergency, you need to have a plan for managing critical infrastructure failures – and that plan becomes stronger when healthcare and public health partners work together before, during, and after an emergency.
The United States has 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on national security. Healthcare and public health form one of those sectors.
To strengthen critical infrastructure, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through ASPR’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection, facilitates the coordination of the Healthcare and Public Health (HPH) Sector Partnership. For efficiency, the HPH Sector Partnership is organized into eight operational categories: direct patient health care, health plans and payers, mass fatality management services, health information and technology, laboratories and blood, medical materials, federal response coordination, and public health.
The HPH Sector Partnership supports effective emergency preparedness and response to nationally significant hazards, such as terrorism and cyber terrorism, infectious disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. HPH partners work together to define and respond to risks, share threat information, develop and disseminate best practices, and address challenges so that each healthcare business, the entire health sector and your community become more resilient. Stakeholders and members of the HPH Sector Partnership engage regularly in confronting challenges in health supply chain coordination, response coordination, cybersecurity coordination, and emerging threat identification.
November is National Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month and it is a great time to learn more and commit or reaffirm your commitment to keeping our nation’s critical infrastructure secure and resilient every day.
To stay up-to-date on issues at the intersection of public health, healthcare and critical infrastructure protection, join our mailing list and check out our new podcast, Building Resilient Health Infrastructure with ASPR. To get involved in the HPH Sector Partnership, email us at CIP@hhs.gov.
About the Authors
CDR Thomas J (TJ) Christl is the Branch Chief of the Infrastructure Analysis and Partnerships Branch in the HHS/ASPR Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection. Rachel Lehman is the Stakeholder Engagement Policy Analyst of the Infrastructure Analysis and Partnerships Branch in the HHS/ASPR Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection.
This article first appeared on the HHS ASPR Blog. View the original.