Insuring continuity of care for chronic disease patients after a disaster: key preparedness elements.

BACKGROUND: Care for patients with chronic diseases is a challenge after a disaster. This is particularly true for individuals from health disparate populations as they are less likely to evacuate, have fewer financial resources and often depend on resource-strapped institutions for their care. The specific aim of the study presented here was to elicit challenges and solutions in the provision of health care to those with chronic diseases after Hurricane Katrina in coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

METHODS: Focusing on agencies providing care to health disparate populations, a qualitative methodology was employed using in-depth interviews with health and social service providers. Participants identified key elements essential to disaster preparedness.

RESULTS: Predisaster issues were patient education and preparedness, evacuation, special needs shelters, and health care provider preparedness. Postdisaster issues were communication, volunteer coordination, and donation management.

CONCLUSIONS: Lessons learned from those on the ground administering health care during disasters should inform future disaster preparations. Furthermore, the methodological approach used in this study engendered collaboration between health care institutions and may enhance future interagency disaster preparedness.