Physicians, Heal Thy Business Continuity Thyself

Like the cobbler’s children who are the least well shod, it seems that organisations whose whole business is in emergencies are not necessarily well-prepared for business continuity. In particular, hospitals have come under scrutiny in recent years because of an apparent lack of integration of risk management practices. Approaches have sometimes stopped short of the holistic approach to BC across the hospital, preferring to concentrate only on specific resources and departments. So how is it that a professional organisation like a hospital can be so good at coping with other people’s emergencies and so lacking in preparation for its own?

The situation for hospitals was described for the US in a paper authored in 2009 by Angela Devlen, Managing Partner of consultancy firm Wakefield Brunswick. Before turning to management consulting in DR, BC and healthcare, Devlen was Director of Emergency Management at Caritas Christi Health Care, a 12,000 employee organisation in New England that later became the Steward Health Care System. Her findings were that plans, where they existed, lacked overall strategy, and that a delusion prevailed that internal disaster plans were the same thing as business continuity plans.

Devlen also pointed to recurring deficiencies in planning in communications, human resources and supply chain in hospitals, identifying these shortfalls as significant opportunities to bring in business continuity planning. Salvation in her opinion came mainly from proper BC governance and business impact analysis.

Yet how many other organisations such as police and fire emergency services might be suffering from the same problem? How many enterprises with their noses to the grindstone, and with lean manufacturing and just-in-time operations at full tilt? Getting it right for hospitals could be a message for any other organisation or enterprise functioning under pressure to see if BC is more than just a vague “we’ll fix it if there’s an emergency”.