The Critical Role Hospital Call Centers Play During and After a Disaster
Part 1 of 2
The ever-increasing threats from natural and human-made disasters have made the use of disaster response systems a necessity. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. residents live in areas that are rated as having a moderate to very high risk of experiencing a natural disaster (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, hail, wildfires, and earthquakes).
In a Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) report titled, “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2018”, twenty-seven shootings were identified as active shooter incidents; which resulted in 85 deaths and 128 people wounded (excluding the shooters).
When disaster strikes, both local and national call centers provide critical communication services to help coordinate first responders and rescue teams, organize relief efforts, enable communication between loved ones, and support communities during recovery.
Disaster Preparedness and Business Continuity
Disasters often occur without warning. Weather events, mass violence, and other incidents can cause an outage or strain on communication systems. However, organizations can formulate a disaster preparedness and business continuity plan in anticipation of a catastrophic event. Hospital call centers are an important component to any disaster preparedness plan because they often become a communications hub during an emergency.
National, state, and local agencies often work with hospitals to develop a plan for coordinating call centers. They identify partnerships with organizations such as 9-1-1 and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), to determine how to integrate each call center into a larger communication network, for efficient allocation of services and dissemination of public health information.
The use of technology enables call centers to execute their disaster preparedness and business continuity plans quickly and efficiently. Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Uniform Call Distribution (UCD), and other communication software can automate call routing systems. Leveraging automatic notifications and critical alerts helps to speed communications and shorten reaction times.
Emergency Notifications, Critical Alerts, and Web-based Mass Communication
Methodist Medical Center of Illinois (Methodist), part of Unity Point Health Methodist, is located in the heart of Peoria, Illinois, and includes a 330-bed hospital with almost 600 board-certified physicians.
To ensure the safety of their patients and staff, the technology used by the call center at Methodist, helps to prepare them for any type of situation. By using a customizable critical alert system, operators can quickly contact multiple people when various disaster and code calls come through their center.
When an emergency notification is needed, an operator triggers the alert by simply selecting a group to notify, and typing in the alert message. The message is broadcast to the appropriate personnel via each recipient’s preferred contact method. This helps ensure that hospital personnel can respond to each situation as quickly as possible.
The flexible system allows the call center manger to determine whether or not each type of notification requires a response from the person who is alerted. While a response and estimated time of arrival is required from someone responding to a disaster, a reply may not be needed from a staff member on the Leadership team who is using their real-time monitor to oversee the situation. Managers can view the estimated time of arrival for each person and determine if additional personnel need to be notified. Their web-based, real-time monitor can even be accessed from home should an alert occur in the middle of the night.