When inclement weather strikes, patients need to know the status of their appointments. Now, thanks to the new Proactive Emergency Management Communication System, all Harris Health patients can be conveniently alerted of closures within minutes through a phone call and/or text message.
“Before, we had a manual process for notifying patients of closures,” says Alan McMahan, manager, Workforce & Data Analytics. “We would print a daily appointment record (DAR) for each clinic. Once printed, schedulers stopped answering inbound calls and started calling patients to let them know their appointment was cancelled.”
This proved difficult because on any given day Harris Health has approximately 10,000 patient appointments scheduled.
Realizing a solution was needed, McMahan's team worked with Information Technology Department and found a solution in Televox/West, a system that sends automated calls and text notifications to patients.
Now, when staff is notified of closures, a report listing every patient appointment is run, downloaded from EPIC and uploaded to a website. Once the report is entered, the system starts calling and texting patients to let them know their appointment is cancelled.
“It’s a great tool for us, but especially for patients,” McMahan says. “It can make thousands of calls within a minute and our patients are immediately notified. This also prevents our patients from calling the appointment center or driving to the health center.”
This was a key communication tool used during Harvey.
An added feature allows staff to tailor the system. For example, during Harvey some clinics opened up in the afternoon. Only the patients scheduled in the morning received the cancellation phone call or text, while the afternoon patients received appointment reminders.