What can happen?
The nation depends on the availability and continuity of the Healthcare and Public Health Sector especially in the event of a disaster or emergency. Every region is exposed to failures in infrastructure caused by terrorism, natural disasters, and technological events. The breakdown or disruption of healthcare and public health infrastructure affects the ability to provide essential services. Different events have diverse impacts on Healthcare and Public Health Sector.
Natural disasters result in casualties and cause widespread damage on infrastructures. They also cause damage to health care facilities and equipment causing long-reaching consequences. Damage caused to infrastructure including roads and bridges keeps people from being able to connect to services they require. Natural disasters also affect the personal lives of healthcare workers influencing their ability to provide services. Hygiene conditions, sanitation, and availability of clean water before and after a disaster can significantly increase the level of impact on health. Waste management and drinking water supply are particularly important factors in controlling disease. The factors cause a strain in the provision of services to population displaced by the disaster (Berggren & Curiel, 2006).
Disasters may also affect healthcare facilities or result in their evacuation. As a result, there arises an interruption of health assistance programs and public health. Additionally, disasters are accompanied by post-disaster outbreaks of disease often associated with lack of necessary utilities and population displacement. Widespread natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and famine can cause an evacuation of large groups of people. Diseases tend to be more common in such overcrowded areas. The conditions cause an increase in demand of healthcare services (Shoaf & Rotiman, 2000).
Terrorism has a significant impact on the physical health, mental health and well-being of the victims and the public. Its goals are to create casualties, fear, panic, and anxiety. For example, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center affected the mental health of the public in different ways. It created casualties, psychological distress for the public, precipitated or exacerbated mental disorders. It also threatened social cohesion that forms part of the foundations for mental health. In the event of terrorism, the healthcare system is immediately overwhelmed due to the sudden increase in demand for emergency medical services. These cause a strain on the providers of health (Panzer et al., 2003).
Technological events such as cyber attacks on a healthcare facility can significantly disrupt the facility’s capacity to manage patients. The impact can be devastating to the ability of healthcare organizations to manage the routine care of their population and patient influx during emergencies. The impact of technological attacks on healthcare facilities can be categorized into the loss of confidentiality, loss of integrity and loss of availability. Technological events may lead to loss of personal data. The loss of data is likely to trigger ripple effects including loss or theft patient information. There is a connection between personal medical devices and patient data. The devices carry privacy and security risks as they become increasingly networked. A technological disaster causes a loss of confidence in the healthcare organization’s ability to maintain patient privacy. Technological events can take a facility off-line resulting in disruption of care owing to software outages. The limited access to records may limit the healthcare organization’s ability to offer necessary care when needed. Additionally, the damage to infrastructures such as utility systems and insurance and payment systems can prevent individuals from accessing necessary medical care.
How likely is it?
There have been various terrorist attacks inside the United States since the September 2001 event. A number of Americans were killed in the events. The United States is more likely to be targeted by terrorists due to its policies against terrorist groups. However, the likelihood of terrorism has decreased as a result of border security and reversal of open door policy. In the past, it has been argued that immigration policies were significantly responsible for terrorist activities in the United States. Thus, there has been a link between terrorism activities and illegal immigrations. The United States has implemented measures to curb the problem by imposing tougher controls in light of terrorism concerns. Through the department of Homeland security, the United States has been able to prevent the occurrence of attacks. The establishment of Fusion centers came from the increasing need to share intelligence and information across different levels of government agencies as well as the need to identify, monitor, prevent and respond to terrorist activities as a requirement for the coordination of different agencies in response to terrorism and criminal activities (Beard, 2001). Such measures have been implemented in response to the increasing threat of terrorism. While there have been measures to improve mechanism to improve the ability to fight terrorism, there has also been an increase in the emergence of terrorist groups. Therefore, there is a relatively low likelihood of terror attacks in the United States.
The occurrence of natural disasters has increased in the past in the United States. The increase in occurrences has been due to a combination of made-made and natural factors human activities. Most recent disasters include tsunamis, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and typhoons. These have increased over the past two decades. On the other hand, natural geologic disasters including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, landslides have remained steady. Global warming has increasing earth temperatures leading to more intense storms such as hurricanes. Human beings have also tempted nature with speedy and unplanned urbanization in flood-prone regions, escalating the impact of coastal floods and flash floods. Therefore, there has been an increase in the occurrence of natural disasters in the recent past due to numerous contributing factors. However, natural disasters are not very frequent, hence reducing the likelihood of occurrence
Today, Individuals and organizations significantly depend on technology in their day-to-day operations. The increase in the use of technology has been accompanied by an equivalent increase in threats of sabotage. Technological events form some of the most likely occurrences today. Many organizations have been victims of theft of sensitive data often carried out through different techniques (Bailey et al., 2014). The likelihood of occurrence of technological events increases as actors may be located in far locations. Actors may carry-out such acts more easily compared to terrorist activities due to limit in logistics. The occurrence of technological events on a healthcare organization may force a hospital to divert all non-emergency admissions to other facilities after a malware infection. More and more systems in the world have rapidly migrated into digital platforms. As that happens, the risk of technological events becomes increasingly daunting as actors pursue gains. Mitigating the impacts of technological events often requires making complex trade-offs between keeping pace with demands and reducing risks. Thus, the likelihood of technological events is high.
Bailey, T., Miglio, A. D., & Richter, W. (2014). The rising strategic risks of cyberattacks. McKinsey Quarterly, 2(2014), 17-22.
Beard, J. M. (2001). America’s New War on Terror: The Case for Self-Defense under Internatonal Law. Harv. JL & Pub. Pol’y, 25, 559.
Berggren, R. E., & Curiel, T. J. (2006). After the storm—health care infrastructure in post Katrina New Orleans. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(15), 1549-1552.
Panzer, A. M., Butler, A. S., & Goldfrank, L. R. (Eds.). (2003). Consequences of Terrorism:: A Public Health Strategy. National Academies Press.
Shoaf, K. I., & Rotiman, S. J. (2000). Public health impact of disasters.