How Mobile Mass Notification Systems with SMS Opt-In Capabilities can Help Better Protect Healthcare Environments

In the healthcare industry, mass notifications systems have to comply with multiple federal and state regulations. Mobile mass notification systems with SMS opt-in capabilities can help healthcare organizations comply with regulations and better protect healthcare environments, as well as the people who work in them.

In the majority of healthcare environments, mass notification systems have to comply with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, and nationwide health and safety standards such as NFPA 72 (Performance Requirements for Emergency Communication Systems) and UL 1971 (Standard for Signaling Devices for the Hearing Impaired).

Healthcare organizations that are beneficiaries of the Medicare and Medicaid programs also have to comply with the Communications Plan element of CMS´ Emergency Preparedness Rule, and conditions of participation in the programs – which includes compliance with the Civil Rights Act 1964. States also have their own regulations relating to mass notification systems for healthcare environments.

What this means in practice is that whatever systems are implemented must be capable individually or jointly of communicating both audible and visual notifications, coordinating alerts within a healthcare facility – and across healthcare providers, public health departments, and emergency management services – and provide multi-lingual notifications where applicable.

The Challenge of Complying with Federal, State, and Local Regulations

The variety of federal, state, and local regulations may require healthcare organizations to implement multiple independent systems to comply with the regulations; not withstanding that healthcare organizations already use multiple alarm systems for patient care – increasing the potential for alert fatigue and desensitization to important notifications.

In recent years, advances in technology have resulted in the development of integrated systems which (for example) activate digital signage when fire alarms are activated. These are an improvement on healthcare organizations having to manage multiple independent systems, but are not a complete solution if (for example) hearing impaired visitors do not see the visual notifications.

Consequently, it can be beneficial for healthcare organizations to implement mobile mass notification systems with SMS opt-in capabilities that integrate with existing systems. These send notifications to recipients´ mobile devices by SMS text, voice broadcast, and email; and because mobile devices vibrate when a message is received, there is a reduced chance of an important notification being overlooked.

The Benefits of Mobile Mass Notification Systems with SMS Opt-In

Mobile mass notification systems with SMS opt-in capabilities integrate with other notification systems, making it possible to populate their databases by synchronizing them with existing HR databases. However, visitors, agency staff, and contractors – who might not appear on an HR database – can also receive notifications by texting a keyword to a short code number (i.e. text “alerts” to 654321).

Then, when an alarm is activated, the temporary visitor or worker receives a message on their mobile device notifying them of the nature of the emergency and the procedure to follow. This reduces the possibility of temporary visitors not familiar with the emergency procedures becoming confused and hindering the efforts of staff who are initiating the organization´s emergency preparedness plan.

When the system is linked to a web portal, this gives temporary visitors whose first language is not English the opportunity to log into the portal once registered and set message preferences so emergency notifications are communicated in a language they better understand. This can further reduce confusion help better protect healthcare environments during emergency incidents.

Managing Mobile Mass Notification Systems with SMS Opt-In

While it would be reasonable to expect mobile mass notification systems with SMS opt-in capabilities to increase the management overhead, this is not the case. Systems can be configured to accept multiple keywords that correspond to the length of time a temporary visitor is on the premises. For example:

  • Text “alert1” to 654321 to join the system for one day
  • Text “alert2” to 654321 to join the system for one week.
  • Text “alert3” to 654321 to join the system for one month.

When the selected time limit comes to an end, temporary visitors are automatically sent a reminder to repeat the exercise; and, if they don´t, their details are automatically removed from the system. Effectively, there is no additional management overhead involved in managing mobile mass notification systems with SMS opt-in capabilities other than informing temporary visitors that the system exists.

There are many use cases in addition to emergency notifications in which mobile mass notification systems with SMS opt-in capabilities can be beneficial to a healthcare organizations. For example, some organizations have used them to keep delegates informed of activities during conferences, while others have used them for recruitment, marketing, and fundraising activities.