How Healthcare Mass Notification Systems Can Resolve Emergency Preparedness Issues

Multi-modal healthcare mass notification systems can resolve communication gaps in emergency preparedness plans according an industry professional speaking on a recent webinar hosted by Rave Mobile Safety. His comments support research suggesting Emergency Managers´ biggest concerns do not reflect day-to-day reality.

Earlier this year, Rave Mobile Safety conducted a survey of healthcare professionals engaged in various emergency management roles across the country. The survey asked questions relating to the healthcare professionals´ biggest safety concerns, their most frequently-experienced incidents, and the methods used to communicate with employees, patients, and visitors during an emergency.

The results of the survey disclosed a discrepancy between the nature of events Emergency Managers are most concerned about and the actual events that occur. Due to the discrepancy, it was suggested that healthcare facilities are under-prepared for certain types of events and that, due to the lack of preparedness, emergency alerts may not be getting through to all the people all the time.

It was also noted that, when healthcare facilities utilize healthcare mass notification systems to communicate with employees, although the systems may be effective at alerting employees to an emergency, issues existed with regard to employee engagement, database management, and coordinating communications – issues that could cost time and lives in the event of an emergency.

Weather Events can put a Strain on Resources

The sole area in which safety concerns closely matched the frequency of incidents was severe weather events. 32% of respondents reported severe weather as one of their two biggest concerns and 52% reported having experienced a disruption due to severe weather within the past two years. However, 32% of respondents also acknowledged their Emergency Preparedness Plan for severe weather events had either not been tested within the past year, or had never been tested at all.

Commenting on the results of the survey, it was noted that an increasing frequency of severe weather events is creating an increased demand on patient services and the need for better coordination of resources. This not only applies during a severe weather event, but also in the days and weeks after due to an increase in hospital admissions caused by patients being unable to obtain medication or being unable to operate home medical devices due to a loss of power.

Historically, this so-called “ripple effect” can result in as many hospital admissions as those attributable to weather-related injuries. It can last for months due to the exacerbation of chronic diseases requiring longer hospital stays, and the situation is difficult to build into an Emergency Preparedness Plan because of the unknown consequences of a severe weather event and how it will impact neighboring healthcare facilities – who may be required to supply personnel, supplies, and capacity to ease the demand.

Triaging Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Today

Following the publication of the survey´s results, Rave Mobile Safety hosted a webinar entitled “Triaging Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Today”. The company invited Kevin McGinty – the Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator for the Middlesex Health System in Connecticut – and Patrick Turek – the System Director of Emergency Management for Harford Healthcare in Connecticut – to share their views on the survey´s findings. You can watch the webinar below.

Key Takeaway Related to Healthcare Mass Notification Systems

The key takeaway from the webinar related to healthcare mass notification systems is that one method of communication won´t reach all the people all the time, and that the best way to resolve this communication gap in emergency preparedness plans is with a multi-modal healthcare mass notification system – i.e. one that alerts employees, patients, and visitors to emergency events via multiple channels of communication such as SMS text, email, social media, etc.

It was commented in the webinar that multi-modal healthcare mass notifications systems have the benefit of providing communications redundancy and can easily be trial-run in tabletop exercises in order to familiarize employees with the system´s use. It was further noted that, at a time when the systemization of health systems is growing, having standard communication channels and a virtual command structure can help reduce the strain on resources after a severe weather event.

If you would like to know more about resolving emergency preparedness issues with multi-modal healthcare mass notification systems, download the report “Emergency Preparedness and Security Trends in Healthcare”. The report includes the results of Rave Mobile Safety´s survey, how the company proposes healthcare facilities overcome issues such as employee engagement, database management, and coordinating communications, and further information about Rave Mobile Safety´s product range.

Healthcare Mass Notification FAQs

What is the connection between mass notification systems and hospital preparedness?

Healthcare mass notification systems support templates that can be prepared in advance for all manner of emergencies. When an event occurs that requires mass notification, system administrators can then select the appropriate template rather than compose a message under potentially stressful circumstances which could lead to errors being made in the content of the message.

Why is database management important in hospital preparedness?

Effective database management is important because there are times when it is not necessary for every contact on the database to be alerted to an emergency with the same message. For example, if a fire were to break out in one area of a hospital campus, only those exposed to the risk of danger should activate the emergency evacuation plan. To alert every contact simultaneously could result in unnecessary evacuations, making it harder to affect an appropriate emergency response and exacerbating business disruption.

How do healthcare mass notification systems resolve the need for better coordination of resources?

This depends on the capabilities of the system. Some systems are supplied with optional task-based collaboration platforms that empower healthcare facilities to coordinate emergency responses and recover more effectively. The platforms can be configured not only to support coordinated responses during emergencies, but also operational events such as IT downtime and supply chain issues.

Can healthcare mass notification systems be HIPAA-compliant?

No. Even in emergency events, healthcare mass notification systems should not be used to communicate protected health information unless a waiver has been issued by the Department for Health and Human Services. Even then, it is important to remember that no technology is HIPAA-compliant. Compliance with HIPAA is dependent on how the technology is used.

How is it possible for a mass notification system to send alerts via multiple channels of communication?

Whereas most mass notification systems support three or four channels of communication (typically SMS, email, social media, voice broadcast, etc.), the most effective systems are compatible with the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). This means they can be integrated with other CAP-compatible systems such as PA systems, digital signage, desktop alerts, and beacon warning systems.