Episode 23: Natural Disasters and Emergency Preparedness: 3 key lessons (for deciding if you should close)

The Private Medical Practice Academy

Episode 23: Natural Disasters and Emergency Preparedness: 3 key lessons (for deciding if you should close)

February 23, 2021

Episode 23: Natural Disasters and Emergency Preparedness: 3 key lessons (for deciding if you should close)

The recent ice storm and its devastating aftermath is a great reminder for why every medical practice (and actually any business) needs to have a plan for deciding whether to close in the context of a natural disaster. 

When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in August 2005, I had 7 providers and 30 staff members. At that time, I didn’t know what to anticipate nor did I have a well-designed plan. The good news is I learned some very valuable lessons and I’m going to share them with you.

Lesson 1: Identify the decision maker 

  • And then, decide when the determination to close is going to be made and communicate that. 

Lesson 2: Clearly communicate with your staff

Once you've made the decision, you need to have a communication plan 

If everybody is still at work, here are some options: 

  • You can have a 5 minute staff meeting where you communicate the plan. 
  • You can send out an email.   
  • You also want to know what each person's plan is so that you can plan accordingly. It’s hard to reopen if you have no staff or providers available.

If a decision whether to remain open or close is made after hours: 

  • You need to have a list with every member of your staff’s contact information including cell phone number, home phone and email address.
  • Identify who is responsible for contacting providers and staff. 
  • If there are more than a couple of people to contact, create a phone tree. 

Lesson 3: Let your patients know the plan

If you are going to remain open, there are a number of ways you can let your patients know what’s happening. 

  • Post on your website.
  • Use your social media channels to post notifications. 
  • Change the auto attendant message on your phone to convey the information. 
  • Use your patient reminder software to either call or text people with a status update. 
  • Don’t be surprised if many of your patients cancel or no-show. 

If the decision is to close your office, you will want to add some additional steps. 

  • Set up a pre-recorded automated message using your patient reminder software. 
  • The message should also instruct the patient on how their appointment is going to be rescheduled.  
  • You need a written protocol for how to implement the deployment of this message.
  • Notify your local radio and TV stations as well as the newspapers. 
  • If you have an answering service, make sure you have a script with a clear set of instructions for patients so they can communicate with the patient without forwarding those calls on. 
  • Equip whoever will be contacting patients with a clear script that includes how to handle questions about rescheduling and med refills. 

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