CMS emergency communications plan
Communications Aug 15, 2017

Ultimate Guide: CMS Guidelines Emergency Communications Plan

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants to ensure that no employee, patient, or family member is left uninformed during an emergency. Read this article to learn how communications can help you prepare.

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With just a few months remaining to become compliant with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) emergency preparedness regulations, healthcare providers and suppliers are ramping up their efforts to ensure their organizations will meet the CMS emergency preparedness deadline of November 15, 2017. Is your facility ready?

To be compliant with the new emergency preparedness guidelines, CMS requires that your plan consists of four integral parts:

  1. Emergency Preparedness
  2. Communications
  3. Policies and Procedures
  4. Training and Testing

AlertMedia’s innovative mass communication platform can help you in your quest for a compliant solution that is most beneficial for your facility.

Developing Your CMS Communications Plan

CMS wants to ensure that no employee, patient, or family member is left uninformed during an emergency. Implementing a multi-modal approach to emergency mass communications is the only way to ensure all parties are informed in a timely manner. When putting together your communications plan, the CMS guidelines require that it includes:

  • Contingencies for the facility communication infrastructure in the event of telephone failures (e.g., walkie-talkies, ham radios, text messaging systems, etc.)
  • Plans for updating and performing full-scale testing of your communication infrastructure annually
  • Compliance with state and federal laws
  • Documentation of the names and contact information of staff, patients, volunteers, patients’ physicians, and entities providing services under arrangement
  • A standard method of sharing patient information and medical documentation to ensure continuity of care
  • A standard plan for how to alert your contacts of evacuations and relocations
  • A methodology on how patients families and loved ones will be communicated with and receive timely updates around the patient’s health, location, and the outcome of a hazard
  • A contracted plan with emergency personnel and other vendors that reliable aid will be available. You should know which vendor can help with which hazard, how long it will take them to get to your facility, what service they will provide, and who your point of contact should be
  • How administration will train and update staff on critical events

How to Send Your Emergency Notifications

Now that you know what you need to communicate, how will you communicate it? Thinking through the entirety of your emergency communications strategy before disaster strikes is key to being fully prepared. Below we’ve outlined an easy five-step approach for preparing and executing emergency notifications with AlertMedia’s technology:

1. Create outbound messages for each CMS-required scenario. 

  • Your CMS communications program must include a plan specifically designed for each of the six-event types designated by CMS: epidemics and pandemics, as well as biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological, explosive-incendiary, and natural incidents
  • Once you evaluate the different scenarios your facility may encounter, you can utilize AlertMedia’s template feature to craft a message and choose an audience for each event in advance with specific instructions and guidance on the proper protocol and procedures for your staff to ensure the safety of each individual.

2. Identify the audience for each message – Who needs to receive your message? You may only need a specific group to be in the know or it could be a facility-wide notification. AlertMedia offers numerous ways to group your audience so you can notify the right people more efficiently. Groups can be dynamic or custom, which can be determined by location, department, or specific function. Building these groups of contacts ahead of time will make deploying your messages much easier when the time comes.

3. Select a method of delivery – Will your message be sent via text, voice, email? When building out your notification templates, you can select a few or all channels to ensure timely receipt of your message. You also have the option of cascading your messages or having them sent out across all channels simultaneously

4. Solicit audience feedback – Are your people safe, did they receive the message? Using the AlertMedia emergency notification system, employees have the ability to communicate back and forth with their organization through a variety of product features including surveys, read confirmations, and incoming messages. 

  • Surveys: Surveys enable administrators to send a notification that requires a user response from multiple options. As the selections on the survey come back, the AlertMedia platform builds a results chart – making the data collection easy for admins to ultimately evaluate the status of their people.
  • Read confirmations: This type of notification requires users to respond to a message to verify that they have seen and read the notification.
  • Incoming Messages: Users can send tips or feedback during a critical event by texting or calling your organization’s dedicated emergency phone number. Admins can address these incoming messages, answer questions, and resolve issues in real-time.  

5. Identify your admins – Who will be sending these messages? Pick administrators who will be in charge of selecting when, what, and to whom a message should go.

When communicating on this scale, preparation is your best defense against a potential logistical nightmare. It will help you avoid certain technical issues and the challenges common to managing massive amounts of contact information. AlertMedia helps systematize and automate your communication process to better prepare your facility when a critical event occurs.

Why AlertMedia is the Right Communication System for You

AlertMedia is the communication system you need to address each of the different aspects outlined in your CMS communications plan as well as the different hazards that could affect your facility. Our cloud-based platform and flexible API allow for complete integration with a variety of communication channels as well as unlimited custom channels like the ones hospitals use on a daily basis. With an intuitive no-training-required mass notification software, healthcare facilities have the ability to send messages instantaneously and simultaneously across all channels with minimal effort. AlertMedia is the fastest-growing communication solution because it equips organizations with:

  1. Seamless two-way communication

Two-way communication takes one-way notifications and allows them to become interactive conversations. With the increased presence of mobile devices and easy-to-reach communication channels such as text, social, and app pushes, AlertMedia promotes two-way communication with its audience-oriented design, allowing individuals to share photos, submit updates, call for help, and share their location. Through audience interaction, your employees can be your eyes and ears during a critical event. Real-time updates greatly improve efficient coordination and safety as an emergency transpires.

  1.   Superior data management

A CMS compliant communications plan will require your organization to gather, store, and update a large amount of contact information for those who will need to receive your emergency notifications. This data is helpful to staff, volunteers, and emergency personnel. AlertMedia’s software makes gathering and maintaining data in a safe, efficient manner easy –  – allowing you to focus on quickly sending the right message to the right audience. Furthermore, when data is properly managed, communication systems can generate real-time reporting around which intended recipients have or have not responded, opened, or received a message.

  1. Multichannel messaging

With today’s technology, web and mobile applications are utilized on a variety of devices with an unlimited number of communication channels. Such channels include voice call, text, native mobile apps, email, social media, and even enterprise collaboration tools like Slack. Healthcare facilities serve a wide variety of people who interact differently, making our multi-channel delivery option a slam dunk for you when you need to ensure message delivery to your audience members.

  1. Location tracking

It is always a high priority to know the whereabouts of staff and patients, but even more pressing during an emergency. AlertMedia’s location functionalities can help you quickly find the right audience, only reach the people who need your message, geofence recipients to visually grab your audience, and visually see the proximity of your people to emergencies all from their current mobile device location. This allows you to quickly distribute valuable information to your people that will keep them safe, informed and connected as an event transpires. Implementing a communication system of this caliber enables you to send messages that are targeted and specific to the groups affected by the threat at hand, improving safety for all.

The new CMS guidelines are designed to further ensure patients, clients, personnel, and participants are safe and informed during natural and man-made critical events. Improved emergency communications help ensure the safety of your facility and your people. One of the best technology investments your hospital or healthcare facility can make in preparation for these new guidelines is in a multi-layered mass communication system. Let AlertMedia help your company today!

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