University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Activating the Hospital Incident Command System Response in a Community Specialty Practice: The Mayo Clinic Experience

Ellen A. Love, MHA; Susanne C. Degen, RN, MBA; Jason E. Craig, MBA; Richard A. Helmers, MD

WMJ. 2021;120(2):137-141.

Download full text pdf.


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic presented health care organizations with a unique challenge in determining effective management of a large-scale incident across an extended time period.

Case Presentation: This report describes the response of a multisite integrated system to the COVID-19 pandemic through activation of the Hospital Incident Command System.

Discussion: A robust emergency response plan with multidisciplinary involvement can help to ensure clear lines of accountability and expedite decision-making. Consistent physician input across affected specialties allows for a robust understanding of impacted areas, peer-to-peer communication, and a sense of ownership across the medical staff. The necessity of effective communication with staff and patients during times of crisis cannot be understated. The potential for information overload in a pandemic is significant but can be overcome through consistent and transparent communication from leadership.

Conclusion: Health systems should have a well-organized emergency response system prepared to launch in small-scale or large-scale situations. The threshold to implement the response system and accountability to make that decision must be a clearly defined organizational policy.

Author Affiliations: Mayo Clinic Health System Northwest Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Wisconsin (Love, Degen, Craig, Helmers); Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota (Helmers).
Corresponding Author: Ellen Love, 4500 San Pablo Rd, Jacksonville, FL 32224; phone 904.953.4645; email
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Share WMJ