As a healthcare provider, you may advise people to take care of their health before a crisis strikes. But are you doing this for your practice? These days, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and volcanoes seem to be all over the news. How you would communicate with patients during a natural disaster? Would you be able to contact your staff if your cell phone service was down? Most practices have insurance, and some have basic emergency policies. Unfortunately, these plans don’t usually include clear, up-to-date communication instructions.
ReminderCall.com has provided free closure notifications to its customers since Hurricane Sandy. We’ve seen that sharing accurate information is vital during a natural disaster. Every practice needs to guide patients—and staff—through a crisis. So we’ve created this checklist to help you get prepared.
How to communicate with patients and staff during a crisis:
1. Decide how you will communicate with your team.
Contact information changes as new employees join the team and others leave. Check that you have current contact information for your staff stored on your cell phone. Decide on one main communication tool to use if cell services go down. You may pick a cloud email, social networking, or instant messaging tool. Just make sure everyone knows which service to use. Share pertinent login information so that all team members can connect from home.
2. Designate an official contact person.
Several employees giving out conflicting information can lead to chaos. On the flip side, leaving everyone in the dark can also cause a problem. Avoid these extremes by assigning a central contact person. During a crisis you may be busy with emergency workers and insurance companies. Delegate the task of reaching out to staff and patients. Choose a clear communicator who is calm under pressure. They will become the face of the organization, conveying one consistent message: yours.
3. Prepare closure notifications for patients.
ReminderCall.com customers can send closure notifications for free. Just let us know that you are having an emergency. We recommend drafting your closure notifications ahead of time. For example, if you are in an area prone to snow, create a snow-day alert in your ReminderCall.com account. Then, it’s ready to go. It can be very simple and get the job done. Here’s an example to get you started:
“This message is to inform you that ABC Clinic will be closed on <ApptDate> due to severe weather. To reschedule please contact our office at 555 555-5555.”
During an extended closure, you can also send ongoing informational updates. Make sure your designated contact person has the ReminderCall.com login information. If there’s no time, or you are unable to get online, you can call (888) 858-6673 and we will help send your closure notifications for you.
4. Set up other tools to communicate with patients.
If you are like most providers, you already have tools to help you communicate with patients. As an example, a good voicemail message can contain vital instructions for your patients. A web site can also be a great way to broadcast updates. And, even if you don’t like social media, it is a free way to communicate with the outside world. At the very least, it makes sense to set up a Twitter or Facebook account for your practice to use in an emergency. Keep current log in information handy for all such tools.
When phone services goes down, the internet can become the only way to reach others. Note nearby businesses or hotels that offer Wi-Fi. They may come in handy if your practice needs to set up a temporary communication hub. If your phones are down you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. A helpful representative will assist you.
5. Hold a yearly disaster recovery drill.
The last step is to get all this information to your team. It’s a good idea to go over your complete disaster recovery plan at least once each year. Be sure to review your communication plan; it will be time well invested. In less than 15 minutes, you can:
- update all contact information,
- name a designated contact person,
- hand out up-to-date passwords and login information.
Hopefully, you will never experience a crisis or need to use the emergency exits in your building. But if you ever do, a little preparation goes a long way in helping your organization weather the storm. When the dust settles, you will be glad communications were part of your disaster recovery plan.