Originally Published in VoiceFriend Newsletter, February 2015

It's a snow storm in New England or Minnesota, a tornado in Kansas, a hurricane in the gulf coast or a torrential rainstorm on the pacific coast. We all have unfortunately experienced these weather systems. They may not occur this month or next, but at some point in the future, they will. Is your community, hospice or agency prepared?

Many healthcare providers believe they have a plan, but many have not properly tested the plan. When and if they do, they often find one of the major impediments to success is proper communications with staff, families and even patients or residents. This communications challenge has recently received much attention.

To help providers, the American Health Care Association (AHCA) in conjunction with the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) has developed an Emergency Preparedness Document that highlights the need for a communications plan (click here to view the plan). Among their recommendations, the plan identifies the need for:

  • A team that is knowledgeable of the plan

  • A current list of stakeholders with phone numbers (cell preferably so text messaging is an option) and email addresses

  • Confidentiality with patient related information

  • Use of proper communications channels

At VoiceFriend, we endorse the AHCA/NCAL plan and encourage the use of technology to quickly disseminate information to stakeholders including staff, families and patients or residents. Technology that enables healthcare providers to send immediate phone, text and email communications to the stakeholders should be a vital component of any emergency preparedness plan.

The recent rash of blizzard conditions in various parts of the country has provided an opportunity to put communications plans and solutions to the test. Many communities, including Epoch Senior Living, turned to VoiceFriend - a provider of alerts, notifications and productivity solutions for communities, agencies and hospice - to inform their stakeholders of vital information. Typical storm related notifications included:

  • Coverage for staff call outs

  • Appointment confirmations

  • The need for all staff to plan ahead and arrive early for their shift or appointments

  • Community Parking lot accessibility

  • Resident or patient activities and meal availability

  • Reassurances to families that residents and patients are safe and secure

Says Maureen Gardner, executive Director at Epoch Senior Living, "VoiceFriend is an invaluable tool for when weather or other emergencies occur. The response from staff is terrific and families, residents and patients are informed in minutes, rather than hours".

Winter is the season when weather can most likely cause havoc with communities, hospice and agencies. Having a proper communications plan and automated messaging solution can be an invaluable resource.

Bruce Baron is CEO of VoiceFriend. VoiceFriend is the leader in providing messaging services for eldercare providers and hospitals. For more information on solutions to reduce OT expenses, make staff more productive and increase compliance to care plans, please contact VoiceFriend at 781-996-3123 or email us at sales@voicefriend.net.