Emergency preparedness — prepare your medical practice for when Mother Nature strikes
It was 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, 2018, when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit eight miles north of Anchorage, Alaska.
Cecily Sheats, Director of Business Operations at Internal Medicine Associates LLC, remembers visiting the practice — located on the fifth floor of Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage — the Sunday after the earthquake and thinking, “Oh my goodness. How are we going to fix this?”
According to the World Health Organization, natural disasters affect nearly 160 million people worldwide each year. With so much in the balance, it’s important for a practice to have a plan of action — whether it’s for an earthquake, tornado, fire, or flood — before it happens.
If you read the headlines, you know that hurricanes threaten practices in coastal locations and throughout the Southern United States during the summer and fall months. In Katy, Texas, Medical Colleagues of Texas (MCT) assigns leads to handle important tasks ahead of time.
“Our lab coordinator is in charge of the perishables,” said Practice Administrator Ethan Bing. “She ensures that vaccines, samples, and other refrigerated medications are secured in the event we lose power.”
Staying in touch
When Hurricane Harvey hit in the summer of 2017, the practice had to close for about four business days. Staff members sent blast notifications to patients through Greenway Marketplace Partner Updox. They also communicated through the practice’s website and Greenway’s Patient Portal.
“It is imperative to communicate with patients in times of disaster,” Ethan said. “Oftentimes, alternative care can be sought when we proactively communicate.”
After Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida on Sept. 10, 2017, social media made a difference for practices and patients in the Sunshine State.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Florida residents relied more on social media alerts from first responders and government officials than more established emergency response methods.
A Facebook or Twitter update can transmit timely information to patients. Phone trees, mass emails, and website updates are other ways to share information. It’s best to reach out in through multiple channels, because people are likely to have different preferences and levels of access.
“It is imperative to communicate with patients in times of disaster. Oftentimes, alternative care can be sought when we proactively communicate.”
Ethan Bing, practice administrator at Medical Colleagues of Texas
After the storm
Unfortunately, natural disasters are unavoidable. But patients still need care, even when a practice is rebuilding.
After the earthquake damaged facilities at Internal Medicine Associates, the practice partnered with others situated on the Alaska Regional Hospital campus.
“We were able to continue servicing our patients and we devised processes to communicate changes and scheduling and things like that so that we could move forward progressively,” Cecily said.
“They were truly a partner in helping us to communicate with our patients and then also assuring us that payments were still able to be posted,” Cecily said. “There definitely would have been more hiccups in our revenue cycle if they wouldn’t have been aboard.”
A natural hazard can strike any time, but by partnering with a solutions expert and planning in advance, practices put themselves in a better position to recover quickly.
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