But just having an ENS isn’t enough. With a little time and some planning, healthcare organizations can improve their preparedness by creating prewritten alerts and using their ENS to target their communications to specific roles within their organization.
Communication is one of the four pillars (along with assessing threats, setting policies and procedures and implementing training and exercises) of the CMS Emergency Preparedness Rule.
Communication is at the heart of emergency response – both to alert personnel of potential threats as well as to collect vital information that will help first responders and law enforcement respond more effectively.
The concern of many emergency preparedness experts is that healthcare organizations may not be communicating as effectively as they could be. With some guidance and lessons learned from other providers, healthcare organizations can implement new best practices.
Meg Nash, MPH, said emergency communications is the biggest hurdle for healthcare organizations.
“Communication is the part where a lot of people are left scratching their heads, unsure of where to begin or what the best plan is,” Nash said during a recent AlertFind webinar.
Indeed, she added, communication is cited as the biggest failure in 80% of all training after-action reports.
“Management often fall back on the idea ‘Emergency communication is the same as regular daily communication,’ ” she said. “And it’s not, which makes for bigger challenges.”
Issues often arise when there are gaps in the alerting structure; or if a protocol was established, but doesn’t function properly or efficiently. Nash recommended three methods for providing efficient healthcare alerting.
However, you can design your communications plan so that the scrub nurse will be alerted and will then either step outside the operating room to get more information or will relay the information they received at the least disruptive time.
As part of the training, you can discuss how they can respond and what options they have for the different situations they may find themselves in – preparing for the surgery, an active operation or post-surgery.
The alerts themselves also need to be structured clearly and cover three key areas: Who is sending the alert, what the emergency is and what protective action you want them to take.
“Keep it short and direct. It’s got to be reinforced and it has to be on multiple channels,” she said.
All alerts should also be sent out over multiple channels – texts, emails, public announcements, pages and calls – to increase the chances the recipient will see it immediately and be able to take protective action.
“Your alerts need to be actionable,” Nash said. “Any miscommunication you have during an event can have huge, negative effects.”
Looking for more ideas about how to build an emergency communication plan? Download our eBook, “10 Actions Healthcare Organizations Can Take To Improve Their Emergency Preparedness And Communications.”