Cross-Agency Communication and Information Exchange in Disaster Healthcare
In disasters, emergency management and health agencies usually play the biggest roles in providing healthcare services to the victims. Despite these agencies having common goals and operational similarities, post-disaster analysis exposes frequent communication failures between the two sectors resulting in delayed, substandard, and sometimes unavailable healthcare. Moreover, inefficiencies and the waste of scarce resources are often experienced due to underutilisation of information and communication technologies by both sectors. This qualitative study investigated the factors that hinder effective communication and information exchange between emergency managers and health professionals in disasters. Social constructivism served as the conceptual framework to ground the study. Semi-structured interviews with emergency managers and health professionals from the UN and the key emergency response agencies in New Zealand were conducted. Thematic analysis of the interviews produced five themes relating to trust, authority and leadership, situation awareness, technology, and legislation. Two approaches were suggested to address the issues revealed in the interviews: a data-driven approach that offers a prototype for a disaster healthcare MDS, and an educational approach that outlines a framework for a disaster e-health (DEH) curriculum. The MDS contains datasets deemed critical by both emergency managers and health professionals for disaster preparedness and response efforts. A two-round Delphi study was conducted to evaluate the MDS prototype and the DEH curriculum framework. The outcomes of this research were integrated into a solution-driven communication framework that may significantly improve the quality of healthcare delivered to the victims of disasters.