Staying Connected in Times of Crisis

As Hurricane Florence forced evacuations in North and South Carolina, healthcare providers in disaster-prone areas felt déjà vu.
Other hurricanes, such as Harvey, Irma, and Maria taught health system administrators that they need to be prepared to quickly decide whether to stay open and treat the injuries that typically arise during these natural disasters.

Whether a provider decides to remain open or to close, communication before, during and after a natural disaster should be the highest priority. VillageMD in Houston Texas used its patient messaging system to send 254,000 emails and text messages to more than 160,000 patients before the hurricane, with reminders as to how to reach a physician if the office closed and to refill any prescriptions.

As the huge fire at the Mendocino Complex this past summer spread closer and closer to Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport, California, the Chief Administrative Officer, lived inside the office for almost two weeks.
All the patients at Sutter had been transferred to other facilities, but the Chief Administrative Officer stayed behind. When he wasn’t patrolling for further spreading of the fire, he coordinated with other hospital staff at various locations safe from the fire. A system that generates mass notifications was used to send emails, texts, and automated phone messages. All staff members kept patients in the loop by phone and a mobile app that’s part of the EHR system used by the facility.

Most healthcare officials agree that a key aspect of dealing with disasters is planning for every situation. The loss we have seen from previous disasters such as deaths of patients caused by failing generators have caused providers to stock up on food, water, and medication, and to obtain extra security for personnel and technology.

Take for instance, University of Miami Health System (UHealth) whose network includes 1200 physicians within three hospitals and 30 outpatient facilities. They have a specific team that is able to provide evacuation services to residents or patients who cannot evacuate themselves.

Bon Secours, a nursing home in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area evacuated nearly 250 residents from its facilities to St. Jude Catholic School and Cathedral where they temporarily stayed to circumvent any harm from Hurricane Irma. Administrators made sure there were plenty of supplies, including 2,700 gallons of water.
While all these facilities provided commendable service to their patients, they value the continued improvement and preparation needed in the event of these disasters and recognize that it’s an ongoing process.

Sourced from Physicians Practice.

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