In a new report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Institute of Medicine provides guidance for state and local health agencies and health care facilities regarding the standards of care that should apply during disaster situations. Public health emergencies and catastrophic events -- such as a pandemic or an unforeseen disaster like an earthquake or bioterrorism -- can make conventional standards of care impossible to uphold due to overwhelming numbers of patients and shortages in equipment, medicine, and staff. States must develop consistent policies and protocols for crisis standards of care to prepare for disasters in which thousands -- or hundreds of thousands -- of individuals become gravely ill and suddenly seek medical treatment.
... According to the committee that wrote the report, crisis standards of care, which involve substantial changes to health care operations and the level of care it is possible to deliver, are put into place out of necessity in response to a disaster situation. Under such circumstances, failing to adopt crisis standards of care -- which include guidance on conserving, substituting, adapting, and doing without resources -- is likely to result in greater death, injury, or illness. Crisis standards-of-care policies and protocols ensure the best health care possible, given the resources at hand...
... Copies of Guidance for Establishing Crisis Standards of Care for Use in Disaster Situations
are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.