Episode 23: Natural Disasters and Emergency Preparedness: 3 key lessons (for deciding if you should close)
Feb. 23, 2021
The recent ice storm and its devastating aftermath is a great reminder for why every medical practice (and actually any business) needs to have a plan for deciding whether to close in the context of a natural disaster.
When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in August 2005, I had 7 providers and 30 staff members. At that time, I didn’t know what to anticipate nor did I have a well-designed plan. The good news is I learned some very valuable lessons and I’m going to share them with you.
Lesson 1: Identify the decision maker
And then, decide when the determination to close is going to be made and communicate that.
Lesson 2: Clearly communicate with your staff
Once you've made the decision, you need to have a communication plan
If everybody is still at work, here are some options:
- You can have a 5 minute staff meeting where you communicate the plan.
- You can send out an email.
- You also want to know what each person's plan is so that you can plan accordingly. It’s hard to reopen if you have no staff or providers available.
If a decision whether to remain open or close is made after hours:
- You need to have a list with every member of your staff’s contact information including cell phone number, home phone and email address.
- Identify who is responsible for contacting providers and staff.
- If there are more than a couple of people to contact, create a phone tree.
Lesson 3: Let your patients know the plan
If you are going to remain open, there are a number of ways you can let your patients know what’s happening.
- Post on your website.
- Use your social media channels to post notifications.
- Change the auto attendant message on your phone to convey the information.
- Use your patient reminder software to either call or text people with a status update.
- Don’t be surprised if many of your patients cancel or no-show.
If the decision is to close your office, you will want to add some additional steps.
- Set up a pre-recorded automated message using your patient reminder software.
- The message should also instruct the patient on how their appointment is going to be rescheduled.
- You need a written protocol for how to implement the deployment of this message.
Notify your local radio and TV stations as well as the newspapers.
- If you have an answering service, make sure you have a script with a clear set of instructions for patients so they can communicate with the patient without forwarding those calls on.
- Equip whoever will be contacting patients with a clear script that includes how to handle questions about rescheduling and med refills.
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