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The internal research program of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health aims to fundamentally transform the preclinical translational research process to get more treatments to more people more quickly. The program develops and implements innovative scientific and operational approaches that accelerate and enhance translation across many diverse projects. Cross-disciplinary team science is a defining feature of our organization, with scientists at all levels engaged in multiple research teams. Here, we share our systems approach to nurturing cross-disciplinary team science, which leverages organizational policies, structures, and processes. Policies including the organizational mission statement, principles for ethical conduct of research, performance review criteria, and training program objectives and approaches reinforce the value of team science to achieve the program’s scientific goals. Structures including an organizational structure designed around solving translational problems, co-location of employees in a single state-of-the-art scientific facility, and shared-use laboratories, expertise and instrumentation facilitate collaboration. Processes including fluid team assembly, specialized project management, cross-agency partnerships, and decision making based on clear screening criteria and milestones enable effective team assembly and functioning. We share evidence of the impact of these approaches on the science and commercialization of findings and discuss pathways to broad adoption of similar approaches.
During catastrophic disasters, government leaders must decide how to efficiently and effectively allocate scarce public health and medical resources. The literature about triage decision making at the individual patient level is substantial, and the National Response Framework provides guidance about the distribution of responsibilities between federal and state governments. However, little has been written about the decision-making process of federal leaders in disaster situations when resources are not sufficient to meet the needs of several states simultaneously. We offer an ethical framework and logic model for decision making in such circumstances. We adapted medical triage and the federalism principle to the decision-making process for allocating scarce federal public health and medical resources. We believe that the logic model provides a values-based framework that can inform the gestalt during the iterative decision process used by federal leaders as they allocate scarce resources to states during catastrophic disasters. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2014;0:1–10)
The hallmark of a successful response to a nuclear detonation will be the resilience of the community, region, and nation. An incident of this magnitude will rapidly become a national incident; however, the initial critical steps to reduce lives lost, save the lives that can be saved with the resources available, and understand and apply resources available to a complex and dynamic situation will be the responsibility of the local and regional responders and planners. Expectations of the public health and health care systems will be met to the extent possible by coordination, cooperation, and an effort to produce as consistent a response as possible for the victims. Responders will face extraordinarily stressful situations, and their own physical and psychological health is of great importance to optimizing the response. This article illustrates through vignettes and supporting text how the incident may unfold for the various components of the health and medical systems and provides additional context for the discipline-related actions outlined in the state and local planners’ playbook.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S73-S88)
Based on background information in this special issue of the journal, possible triage recommendations for the first 4 days following a nuclear detonation, when response resources will be limited, are provided. The series includes: modeling for physical infrastructure damage; severity and number of injuries; expected outcome of triage to immediate, delayed, or expectant management; resources required for treating injuries of varying severity; and how resource scarcity (particularly medical personnel) worsens outcome. Four key underlying considerations are: 1.) resource adequacy will vary greatly across the response areas by time and location; 2.) to achieve fairness in resource allocation, a common triage approach is important; 3.) at some times and locations, it will be necessary to change from “conventional” to “contingency” or “crisis” standards of medical care (with a resulting change in triage approach from treating the “sickest first” to treating those “most likely to survive” first); and 4.) clinical reassessment and repeat triage are critical, as resource scarcity worsens or improves. Changing triage order and conserving and allocating resources for both lifesaving and palliative care can maintain fairness, support symptomatic care, and save more lives. Included in this article are printable triage cards that reflect our recommendations. These are not formal guidelines. With new research, data, and discussion, these recommendations will undoubtedly evolve.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S111-S121)
For efficient and effective medical responses to mass casualty events, detailed advanced planning is required. For federal responders, this is an ongoing responsibility. The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) prepares playbooks with formal, written plans that are reviewed, updated, and exercised regularly. Recognizing that state and local responders with fewer resources may be helped in creating their own event-specific response plans, subject matter experts from the range of sectors comprising the Scarce Resources for a Nuclear Detonation Project, provided for this first time a state and local planner's playbook template for responding to a nuclear detonation. The playbook elements are adapted from DHHS playbooks with appropriate modification for state and local planners. Individualization by venue is expected, reflecting specific assets, populations, geography, preferences, and expertise. This playbook template is designed to be a practical tool with sufficient background information and options for step-by-step individualized planning and response.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S89-S97)
The purpose of this article is to set the context for this special issue of Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness on the allocation of scarce resources in an improvised nuclear device incident. A nuclear detonation occurs when a sufficient amount of fissile material is brought suddenly together to reach critical mass and cause an explosion. Although the chance of a nuclear detonation is thought to be small, the consequences are potentially catastrophic, so planning for an effective medical response is necessary, albeit complex. A substantial nuclear detonation will result in physical effects and a great number of casualties that will require an organized medical response to save lives. With this type of incident, the demand for resources to treat casualties will far exceed what is available. To meet the goal of providing medical care (including symptomatic/palliative care) with fairness as the underlying ethical principle, planning for allocation of scarce resources among all involved sectors needs to be integrated and practiced. With thoughtful and realistic planning, the medical response in the chaotic environment may be made more effective and efficient for both victims and medical responders.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S20-S31)
This article provides practical ethical guidance for clinicians making decisions after a nuclear detonation, in advance of the full establishment of a coordinated response. We argue that the utilitarian maxim of the greatest good for the greatest number, interpreted only as “the most lives saved,” needs refinement. We take the philosophical position that utilitarian efficiency should be tempered by the principle of fairness in making decisions about providing lifesaving interventions and palliation. The most practical way to achieve these goals is to mirror the ethical precepts of routine clinical practice, in which 3 factors govern resource allocation: order of presentation, patient's medical need, and effectiveness of an intervention. Although these basic ethical standards do not change, priority is given in a crisis to those at highest need in whom interventions are expected to be effective. If available resources will not be effective in meeting the need, then it is unfair to expend them and they should be allocated to another patient with high need and greater expectation for survival if treated. As shortage becomes critical, thresholds for intervention become more stringent. Although the focus of providers will be on the victims of the event, the needs of patients already receiving care before the detonation also must be considered. Those not allocated intervention must still be provided as much appropriate comfort, assistance, relief of symptoms, and explanations as possible, given the available resources. Reassessment of patients' clinical status and priority for intervention also should be conducted with regularity.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2011;5:S46-S53)
The user-managed inventory (UMI) is an emerging idea for enhancing the current distribution and maintenance system for emergency medical countermeasures (MCMs). It increases current capabilities for the dispensing and distribution of MCMs and enhances local/regional preparedness and resilience. In the UMI, critical MCMs, especially those in routine medical use (“dual utility”) and those that must be administered soon after an incident before outside supplies can arrive, are stored at multiple medical facilities (including medical supply or distribution networks) across the United States. The medical facilities store a sufficient cache to meet part of the surge needs but not so much that the resources expire before they would be used in the normal course of business. In an emergency, these extra supplies can be used locally to treat casualties, including evacuees from incidents in other localities. This system, which is at the interface of local/regional and federal response, provides response capacity before the arrival of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and thus enhances the local/regional medical responders' ability to provide life-saving MCMs that otherwise would be delayed. The UMI can be more cost-effective than stockpiling by avoiding costs due to drug expiration, disposal of expired stockpiled supplies, and repurchase for replacement.
(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2012;6:408-414)
Developing a mass-casualty medical response to the detonation of an improvised nuclear device (IND) or large radiological dispersal device (RDD) requires unique advanced planning due to the potential magnitude of the event, lack of warning, and radiation hazards. In order for medical care and resources to be collocated and matched to the requirements, a [US] Federal interagency medical response-planning group has developed a conceptual approach for responding to such nuclear and radiological incidents. The “RTR” system (comprising Radiation-specific TRiage, TReatment, TRansport sites) is designed to support medical care following a nuclear incident. Its purpose is to characterize, organize, and efficiently deploy appropriate materiel and personnel assets as close as physically possible to various categories of victims while preserving the safety of responders. The RTR system is not a medical triage system for individual patients. After an incident is characterized and safe perimeters are established, RTR sites should be determined in real-time that are based on the extent of destruction, environmental factors, residual radiation, available infrastructure, and transportation routes. Such RTR sites are divided into three types depending on their physical/situational relationship to the incident. The RTR1 sites are near the epicenter with residual radiation and include victims with blast injuries and other major traumatic injuries including radiation exposure; RTR2 sites are situated in relationship to the plume with varying amounts of residual radiation present, with most victims being ambulatory; and RTR3 sites are collection and transport sites with minimal or no radiation present or exposure risk and a victim population with a potential variety of injuries or radiation exposures. Medical Care sites are predetermined sites at which definitive medical care is given to those in immediate need of care. They include local/regional hospitals, medical centers, other sites such as nursing homes and outpatient clinics, nationwide expert medical centers (such as cancer or burn centers), and possible alternate care facilities such as Federal Medical Stations. Assembly Centers for displaced or evacuating persons are predetermined and spontaneous sites safely outside of the perimeter of the incident, for use by those who need no immediate medical attention or only minor assistance. Decontamination requirements are important considerations for all RTR, Medical Care, and Assembly Center sites and transport vehicles. The US Department of Health and Human Services is working on a long-term project to generate a database for potential medical care sites and assembly centers so that information is immediately available should an incident occur.
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