Compliance with the requirement for good communication in the CMS Condition of Participation (CoP) on emergency preparedness should focus on getting information to everyone involved so that no employee is left without information in a crisis, says Brian Cruver, CEO of AlertMedia, a company in Austin, TX, that aids with emergency preparedness. In most hospitals, that will require using several different methods of communication, he says.
“Every second counts in these situations. If you can get people evacuated sooner, or let them know of a particular hazard right away, that can make a difference,” he says. “Good communication also includes the people outside your facility, the people who need to respond and provide help, so they get the information they need in the most effective, dependable way. Cutting that time down from 15 minutes to 15 seconds can have an enormous impact.”
For communicating within the hospital campus, the options include the hospital’s public address system, particularly useful for an emergency in which everyone in the facility needs to hear important information, such as in the event of a mass evacuation or a shelter in place order, Cruver says. Text messaging through mobile phones, notebooks, and pads also should be included, but Cruver cautions that in healthcare settings, those devices often are not with the employee or immediately accessible.
Desktop computers and landline phones can be included because healthcare staff and physicians often are near a nursing station or other area with those devices, Cruver says. Walkie-talkies also should be incorporated into the plan, he says. Not every staff member will need walkie-talkies, but their use should be expanded beyond security personnel to include custodial and maintenance workers, and others who can aid with directing other employees and communicating back to hospital leaders about conditions in the facility.
Even old-fashioned pagers have a role in emergency communication, Cruver says. Hospitals are probably the last workplace where pagers still are used regularly, and they are reliable even in a power outage, he notes.
Software platforms can integrate those different methods so that a message goes to all the different devices at once, Cruver says.
“One of the biggest problems people make is not keeping contact information up to date,” Cruver says. “The best communication system won’t work correctly if it has old contact information for former employees or employees who work in different capacity now, or just at a different phone number or email address. The ideal is to have your communications system synced with your master list for contact information, so that it updates automatically.”
- Brian Cruver, CEO, AlertMedia, Austin, TX. Telephone: (800) 826-0777.