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What is a Hospital Crisis Communications Plan?
A hospital crisis communications plan is a document that is used by a hospital and serves as a way of managing the operations of a hospital during a crisis that can threaten their operations, the safety of the workers and the patients inside it, the people near the hospital environment, as well as their own reputation. This document also talks about the way in which information circulates in and out of the hospital during times of crisis for the purpose of taking care of the said situation.
Elements of an Effective Hospital Leadership During a Crisis
Whenever a crisis unfolds, the hospital executives must focus on adequate preparation, communication, and fast action. This is done to continuously ensure a high level of quality in terms of caring for patients, and to keep the hospital staff well-equipped. Here are some of the elements that demonstrate effective hospital leadership whenever crisis strikes:
Methods of Hospital Preparation for an Impending Disaster
Fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural and man-made disasters can happen at any moment and in any location. Whenever a hospital is caught in one of these incidents, it must not only be able to respond to the emergency but also be able to continuously maintain patient care even if they are placed under the most challenging situations possible. With that being said, here are some of the methods that can help a hospital be better prepared to communicate during times of crisis:
- Comply with regulations on crisis communication preparation – Hospitals developing a crisis communication plan should be aware that it needs to contain elements such as being compliant with state and federal laws, having a comprehensive method to contact staff including the patient’s physicians and other essential personnel, and having a well-coordinated communication method within the facility, across healthcare providers, and with state and local public health departments.
- Establish an available and secure endpoint to simplify emergency communication – When creating an emergency plan, keep in mind all of the hospital’s systems and endpoints that the people use, as well as how those systems are linked together. Also, note the possibility that the nurses and staff in the hospital could be working in different areas that hinder easy access to communications devices such as desk phones.
- Consider the possibility of being isolated – Massive flooding, power outages, and damaged roads as a result of a crisis or disaster can cut off connections to the outside world and can lead to a hospital being completely isolated from external help and communication. Having backups that can last for many days such as generators and fuel and various communication redundancies installed in the hospital can alleviate some of the effects of being isolated.
- Using mobile technologies to track and connect patients – Hospital emergency preparedness procedures must include methods to track the location of on-duty employees and sheltered patients under the hospital’s care in the event of an emergency. Families must be reunited with their loved ones as fast as possible, which can prove to be difficult in hospitals with large amounts of square feet of space. An example of a method would be enabling them to use apps that enable the doctors, nurses, and staff to take pictures using phones that are linked to a secure communication platform. The photos can then be stored on secure hospital servers and only those with access to the server can view them.
- Being flexible and redundant – Whenever a network shuts down or gets compromised due to a crisis, the urgency and frequency of alarms, messages, and other forms of patient communications should not go away. In order to make this possible, hospitals must have backup communication solutions in order to maintain the continuity of patient services.
- Having regular training drills – When a crisis unfolds in a hospital, chaos, and confusion immediately dominate and replace what was once a natural order of daily routines. The CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) mandates hospitals to demonstrate completion of two emergency drills per rolling 12-month intervals in order to ensure that hospital employees are prepared to function in these high-stress scenarios. Hospitals must also upgrade their training techniques at least once per year.
How to Prepare an Effective Hospital Crisis Communication Plan
A crisis is inevitable in just about any type of organization or business. In a hospital, a crisis can disrupt the normal day-to-day routines of the workers and can make an already intense environment much more complex. By developing an effective communication plan, the hospital enables them to respond accurately and confidently in the hours following a crisis. Here are the steps to be followed on how to prepare an effective crisis communication plan for a hospital.
1. Identify the people.
The main people that need to be identified first when developing a crisis communication plan are the ones who form the crisis communications team, the stakeholders, and the spokespersons. Ideally speaking, the CEO will lead the communications team, with the top public relations executive and legal counsel as chief advisers. Keep in mind that the senior executives should serve as the crisis communications team. When identifying the spokespersons, it is important that you do so in advance even if you will make the ultimate decision on who will speak once the crisis breaks. In identifying the stakeholders, you should create an internal and external database to guarantee that they receive the exact messages that you want them to hear and potentially be repeated to other people or the media.
2. Identify potential crises and a plan.
The crises communications team should identify every possible threat that is based on the known vulnerabilities of your hospital. It may become clear that some situations can be preventable by changing existing conditions or operational methods. Possible responses should be considered along with best and worst-case scenarios.
3. Identify systems.
The notification systems that need to be identified when creating a communications plan are the notification systems, monitoring systems, and the crisis verification system. Notification systems enable the team to rapidly reach the stakeholders. Monitoring what is being said about you on traditional or social media can alert you to negative messages that could create a crisis. When you also monitor stakeholder feedback during a crisis, you can have enough support to make logical changes to strategy and tactics. In identifying a crisis verification system, the main thing to do is to determine what has happened and immediately identify and document as many facts as possible.
4. Identify messaging via holding statements and key messaging.
Full messages must be developed during a crisis based on the facts gathered and that can take a long amount of time. Pre-determined statements such as “Expect a statement from our CEO within an hour” will give you breathing space and let the audience know that you are working on the matter. These statements must be reviewed regularly. The hospital crisis communications team should also be able to develop crisis-specific messages based on verified information. These can be modified based on the actual crisis and must be adapted to suit different forms of media.
5. Identify key learnings.
When the crisis has passed, the best thing to do would to conduct a formal analysis in the team meeting conducted by the entire hospital crisis communications team. In the meeting, the team should review the things that worked, the things that failed, and what can be improved before another crisis happens. The results should also be used to update the crisis communications plan accordingly.
What are the roles of a crisis management team in a hospital?
A hospital crisis management team should be able to perform a number of duties such as managing the crisis response, performing the tactical operations that are outlined in the emergency plan, overseeing employee assistance, and ensuring that the hospital meets its financial responsibilities. The crisis management team should have a leader that can oversee the group’s work. Executive support for the decisions of the team should also be provided.
What is a crisis?
A crisis is defined as an incident that occurs suddenly in a specific area. It demands a quick and appropriate response and, if managed incorrectly, can result in negative consequences to the organization or business. Natural calamities such as floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes, can cause crises. They can also result from man-made incidents such as fires, job accidents, security incidents, or terror attacks.
What is the required expertise to be in a crisis management team?
A crisis management team should be able to include members who can perform well under pressure, have good analytical skills, and must also be strong communicators. The group should also have members who have expertise in areas such as human resources, information technology, operations, security, communication, finance, and legal requirements. People with expertise in areas that have issues unique to the crisis must also be in the crisis management team.
At the end of the day, proper crisis communication in a hospital is down to satisfying the needs of employees, patients, and their caregivers. When an emergency occurs inside a hospital, the priority should be supporting and connecting the people who are doing the most important work. In effective crisis management, internal and external stakeholders are helped and short-term and long-term impacts of the crisis are planned. Good communication and teamwork should also be used. After all, communication is key in order to get something done in an efficient manner. Examples of a hospital crisis communication plan are posted in this article if you need to make one or if you need a reference to verify the document you’ve made.