AHRQ tool can help EDs locate alternative sites

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released a tool to help quickly locate alternate health care sites if hospitals are overwhelmed by patients due to a bioterrorism attack or other public health emergency.

The alternate care site selection tool, produced by Denver Health Medical Center, was shared with emergency response planners at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The tool lets you locate and rank potential alternative sites — stadiums, schools, recreation centers, motels, and other venues, based on whether they have adequate ventilation, plumbing, food supply, and kitchen facilities, for example. (Editor’s note: The tool is available free as an Excel spreadsheet on AHRQ’s web site: www.ahrq.gov. Under "Select Topic" on the left, choose "Bioterrorism." Then, under "Tools and Resources," click on "Locate Alternative Care Sites during an Emergency.")

Such a tool is an important benefit for ED managers, notes Stephen Cantrill, MD, associate director of the department of emergency medicine at Denver Health, who led the team that developed it. "In many cases, we are tasked with the emergency care of a whole community in dealing with multicasualty incidents, so we benefit from having this tool available," he says.

The tool includes a list of about 30 attributes, such as availability of toilet facilities, availability of communication lines, and availability of food service areas. "You go down, put your potential sites on one axis, your needs on another, rate them on a 0-5 scale [5 being the highest], add up your total, and see if a specific site makes logical sense," Cantrill explains.

The process helps you prioritize potential sites. "In an ideal situation, you do this as part of your advanced planning, so that you are prepared if traditional health care sites are overwhelmed and you need alternative sites to give limited care to patients," he advises.

(Editor’s note: For more information on the alternate care site selection tool, contact Stephen Cantrill at scantrill@dhha.org.)