Why Interoperable Communication is Essential in Today’s New Normal

Joe Wall

by Joe Wall

COVID-19 shut down the United States seemingly overnight back in March. Students couldn’t return to school, thousands of employees shifted to a completely remote workstyle and many businesses closed their doors to visitors to try curbing the spike of cases.

Nearly every industry faced many new challenges, and communication proved critical to navigate the new normal.

Historically, communication has been vital in nearly every crisis. Being able to reach other organizations and emergency agencies seamlessly has been necessary to help people in a timely manner.

For example, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005 has long been criticized for being delayed, and lack of communication played a role. The same can be said for the tragic incidents at the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. 

The most effective way for various agencies to communicate with each other during a crisis is to use interoperable communication platforms. These systems work by connecting different devices, applications and other existing systems to navigate a crisis.

They enable secure, on-demand voice, video and information sharing between multiple responding agencies — even if they all use different communications systems. For example, government agencies could communicate with local hospitals via text about patient numbers, while hospital staff share updated protocols with first responders over the radio.

Proper Collaboration Between Healthcare Facilities and First Responders

When healthcare facilities are overrun with COVID patients, the ability to communicate throughout the facilities on a local or regional basis is essential for the immediate and proper care of patients — both with COVID-19 and those with other critical care issues. 

In many cases throughout the pandemic, there have been instances in which healthcare facilities and first responders communicate early in the morning via conference call as to the number of beds available.  With the rapid spread of the infection, most of those numbers were invalid after mid-morning; thus, first responders were re-routed, sometimes numerous times, to get critical-care patients to a facility that was able to treat them. 

Interoperable communications allows for the instantaneous, up-to-the-minute sharing of information, data, video and more that can direct first responders to facilities that can promptly attend to the critically injured, saving time, and potentially saving lives.

With all first responders using an interoperable communications platform, coordinated efforts can be made to attend to critical incidents in an efficient and timely manner. Police and law enforcement, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, ambulance authorities and emergency management personnel having access to the same information, even if they don’t have the same resources or means of communication, is essential in today’s environment.

The use cases for interoperable communication platforms are nearly endless. One such case is for the mitigation of the spread of COVID-19. Strict protocols are in place to protect people in various settings like hospitals and testing centers. However, communication is vital for these different agencies to properly share changes or updates.

For example, many pop-up testing centers and hospitals establish isolated areas to triage potential COVID-19 cases. First responders must then know the right place to transport general patients and avoid exposing them to the virus. Using an interoperable communication system allows hospital or testing center staff to immediately share updated protocols and procedures with first responders.

Rather than forcing them to waste precious time deciding where a patient needs to go, they can arrive at the facility, place patients in the proper area and allow healthcare professionals to take over without risking exposure for the patient or themselves.

Each application of interoperable communications has an internal standard operating procedure (SOP) specific to the entity or facility and an external case, where collaboration and sharing of vital resources is essential for saving time and lives.

Communication with Other Agencies

During a crisis or peak illness season, speed and response time are critical. Seamless communication is a significant factor in response time (time to arrive) as well as time to total resolution, and it’s essential that important details don’t get lost in the shuffle.

While hospitals and first responders can substantially benefit from interoperable communication, so can other organizations and government agencies. The data around COVID-19 changes almost daily, and government agencies must quickly and effectively inform other agencies when changes occur.

Governmental agencies must collaborate and work together in every situation during an emergent or critical event. The interoperability platform allows, with ease, the sharing of information among the agencies and promotes collaboration, while addressing specific needs in critical incidents. 

The ability to communicate and share resources with local municipalities, schools and hospitals on a single, secure platform fosters efficient collaboration, while enabling each entity to maintain the safety and security of their own data, video and communications systems internally.

Interoperable communication platforms have been around for many years but have grown in necessity as recent disasters and crises like COVID-19 occur. The ability for government agencies, first responders and healthcare systems to operate with unified communication in place is a must-have in today’s world.

Integrators like STANLEY Security have recognized this need and have worked to ensure the accurate and timely sharing of information, data, processes and other protocols are available. Technologies such as this must be implemented for successful mitigation now and in the future.

About the author

Joe Wall, National Lead for Interoperable Communications at STANLEY Security is working on an article that evaluates why unified communications are so important during a crisis and the difference these solutions can make now and in the future. Any interest in taking a look at this piece? Let me know and I’d be happy to send something along!

Source: stanleysecuritysolutions.com