Crisis Standard of Care: Refocusing Health Care Goals During Catastrophic Disasters and Emergencies

Kristi L. Koenig, Hoon Chin Steven Lim, Shin-Han Tsai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


When medical and health needs of a disaster-stricken population exceed currently available resources, surge capacity must be created. The 3S Surge System consists of staff (personnel), stuff (supplies and equipment), and structure (physical location and incident management). Because it is not feasible to deliver health care in the usual way during a catastrophe, the goal shifts from optimizing individual to maximizing population medical and health outcomes. Allocation of scarce resources requires an evidence-based approach that encompasses national and international standards while maintaining regional and local flexibility. At some point in time following a catastrophe, it may become imperative to implement a crisis standard of care putting protocols, such as rationing of health care supplies and medications into action. In developing and defining this crisis standard of care, there are a multiple considerations, including medical, ethical, legal, and implementation/deactivation procedures. This manuscript reviews the origin of the concept of crisis standard of care with a discussion of its development, changes in health care delivery goals during emergencies, when to adopt crisis care policies and protocols, issues to address in catastrophic disaster planning, ethical and legal considerations, and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-165
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


  • 3S surge system
  • Crisis standard of care
  • Disaster medicine
  • Mass casualty event
  • Scarce resource environment
  • Surge capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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