Photo of Dr. Patrick Romano Patrick Romano, clinical team leader for the new project with the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research.

Physicians and researchers from UC Davis Health System, working with colleagues at Stanford University and the Battelle Memorial Institute, have received a $674,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to develop indicators of emergency preparedness for the nation's hospitals and health-care facilities.

In collaboration with its research partners, UC Davis experts will identify and validate benchmarks and standards to better assess levels of readiness, within health-care facilities such as hospitals and alternative care sites, for handling victims after a disaster or pandemic occurs. The research also will help decision makers at federal and state levels gain a better understanding about gaps in disaster planning and readiness.

Developing metrics to assess emergency preparedness is a top priority area of research, according to an Institute of Medicine report released last month. The report, based on the work of a committee of experts as well as information exchanged in public meetings and workshops, identifies gaps in knowledge and recommends that research be done to improve the nation's emergency preparedness and response systems in public health. Besides metrics, the report identified three other research priorities, which included the need to enhance the usefulness of training, improve the timeliness of emergency communications, and create and maintain sustainable response systems. The report was conducted at the request of CDC's Coordinating Officer for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response to assist the Department of Health and Human Services in meeting the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.

"It's hard to prepare for a major calamity," said Patrick Romano, professor of medicine and pediatrics and clinical team leader for the new project at the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, "without first having a formalized way to measure and evaluate levels of preparation. The practical question we're trying to help answer is whether, after six years and $6 billion in emergency preparedness funding, our nation is fully ready to respond to the next Hurricane Katrina or man-made disaster."

The grant complements a $5 million award that UC Davis and four other institutions received last fall to improve disaster planning. Specific efforts include improving hospital surge capacities, emergency care capabilities, and community and hospital preparedness during public health emergencies. Research tasks now under way include developing protocols for the electronic tracking of patient locations and movement, standardized informatics for the seamless exchange of health-care data across platforms, and an expansion of the reach and effectiveness of the videoconferencing technology known as telemedicine.

Photo of Emergency Preparedness Committee Recent emergency preparedness committee meeting with (left to right)Christian Sandrock, Patrica Zrelak, Mairin Rooney, Tammy Gee, Patrick Romano, Teresa Farley, David Chin, Timothy Albertson and Garth Utter. Aaron Bair teleconferenced into the meeting from Washington, D.C.

"UC Davis plays a crucial role in preparing for and responding to emergencies in the Sacramento region, as well as conducting research at the national level," added Romano. "The new grant further cements the university's standing as one of the nation's premier centers for emergency planning and response."

Other UC Davis experts involved in this latest effort include: Christian Sandrock, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine; Aaron Bair, associate professor of emergency medicine; Steve Tharratt, professor of internal medicine and anesthesiology; Timothy Albertson, chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine; Garth Utter, assistant professor of surgery; and Daniel Tancredi, assistant professor of pediatrics.

UC Davis Health System is an integrated, academic health system encompassing UC Davis School of Medicine, the 577-bed acute-care hospital and clinical services of UC Davis Medical Center, the 800-member physician group known as UC Davis Medical Group, and the new Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.