How Does Your Healthcare Facility Communicate During Crisis?
Plan & prepare to communicate during emergencies at your healthcare facility
Emergencies, by nature are stressful. The good news, however, is that planning and preparing before an emergency or crisis can help it go smoothly and with little to no panic from those involved. The key to this is communication. Effective communication during emergencies for healthcare facilities can be the difference between relocating patients in a timely manner, and not having enough staff to continue operations as usual. Keep these communication tips in mind when planning for emergencies and crisis situations for your healthcare facility.
Diversity can be a beautiful thing, but during emergencies, diversity may cause confusion and chaos. Ensure that your healthcare facility is staffed with individuals or volunteers who can be used as interpreters for different cultures in your community. During times of crisis many people innately speak their first language, even if they are fluent in other languages. Having a language barrier when vital information is required quickly, is not ideal. In these situations, interpreters are a saving grace; relaying information to those involved saves time and lessens the stress. Interpreters should be utilized for public stakeholders as well. During times of pandemic or natural disaster, the public will look to healthcare facilities and professionals for actions that need to be taken. Press conferences are likely to happen that the public will be using as advice. Being able to give out important information to those who speak other languages is imperative to the safety of all involved.
Does your healthcare facility have a centralized system that allows communication with first responders and other hospitals in times of crisis? Having a means to communicate with these entities is critical. During a natural disaster for instance, traditional means of communication may not exist, but having a backup system that runs with no internet connection or power can save time and lives. During certain times of crisis, patients may need to be transported, extra volunteers may need to be called for, and advice may be needed from first responders. Having one central location that connects many public safety offices and can be used as a means of communication when power is out, is critical to continued safety.
When many individuals start relaying information, people listening can get confused and easily lose trust in what is being said. Designating one person to address the public, staff and patients is an effective way to communicate during times of crisis. If one person continually speaks, those listening begin to trust them as a source. Just like watching your favorite news anchor on the 5 o’clock news, or reading your favorite columnist in the newspaper. Trust is important with patients, staff and the public, especially during times of emergency.
Healthcare facilities are often looked to during times of crisis for advice and answers, being transparent during these times can increase your credibility. The public, your staff and patients are looking for real answers to real questions, typically they want as much of the truth as you can provide. Communicating honestly, with as much information as possible to keep stakeholders safe, is the best way to communicate transparently and with credibility during emergencies.
Healthcare facilities are typically equipped and prepared to handle emergencies, including those of natural disasters and epidemics; however, without effective communication strategies with patients, staff and the public, they may lose their credibility. By increasing their communication measures before emergencies and crises, healthcare facilities can provide essential care for those that count on them during crisis.