The small clinic’s step-by-step guide to making a crisis management plan

When you're in a difficult situation, it's important to have a plan in place to deal with it. Here is our step-by-step guide to creating your own crisis management plan.

COVID-19 has tested the limits of the healthcare industry, and many small independent practices have been overwhelmed by constantly occurring problems. In fact, some primary care practices are reporting reductions in the use of healthcare services of up to 70 percent because of the pandemic.

As it stands, many small, privately-owned clinics just don't have the same resources as large hospitals. To survive the global pandemic, then, they need to be well prepared. Having a robust crisis management plan on hand and ready to use, for example, is critical to a healthcare practice's agility, and agility is vital to success.

While building a plan like this might seem like an intimidating task, it doesn't have to be. With these few key steps, you'll be on your way to creating a plan that works for you.

1. Conduct a risk assessment

A risk assessment will help you identify any potential crises that could disrupt your clinic's function and processes. Work with your team to list all relevant threats and vulnerabilities that could impact your clinic. These might include anything from major events like a public health crisis (like COVID-19), an economic downturn, a data breach or the recall of prescription drugs.

2. Develop each scenario

Now that you know what risks can impact your clinic and how, it's time to identify which steps will help you respond to each case. For each crisis, it's important to consider the steps you'll take to resolve it. Ask yourself:

  • What resources would you need?
  • How can employees help?
  • Who else needs to be involved?

A financial plan that plans for an economic downturn, for example, will require input from your financial team and a six month cash flow runway to keep you afloat. A crisis plan for medical equipment or drug recall, however, will require help from the provider to determine how to fix the problem while members of your PR team work together to answer patient questions and maintain your clinic's reputation.

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3. Create a plan

Once you’ve determined your actions for each potential risk case, it's time to make some plans. Essential team members - like your clinic manager - can help to get insight into available resources and potential hurdles. For certain crisis scenarios, you may also need input from other parties, such as suppliers or healthcare governing bodies

As you work your way through the plan, keep in mind any relevant regulatory requirements. Determine how you will continue to meet these requirements, even in the midst of a crisis. For example, U.S. healthcare providers must be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Be sure to account for this regulation in each risk case.

4. Communicate and train staff

Stress and panic can make it hard to remember your role in a crisis response. It’s important that your staff understand their roles and can act accordingly during these difficult situations. To reduce the effects of high-stress situations, be sure to:

1. Communicate efficiently

During a crisis, your people will need immediate access to truthful information. Find ways to quickly and effectively distribute your crisis management plan.  A secure instant messaging software will help you deliver real-time access to important documents, incident reporting, contact lists and group messaging capabilities. Add a section for crisis management to your communication security policy to ensure you're always prepared.

2. Train frequently

Training is crucial when it comes to successful crisis management. Be sure to frequently educate your staff on your response plan. Arrange regular testing and organize practice drills to ensure that every individual knows what to do in a bad situation.

Update your crisis management plan regularly

Despite approving, testing and implementing your plan, you're not finished!  Crisis management plans need revising and updating regularly.

As things stand, the crisis landscape for healthcare organizations is continuously changing. On top of daily challenges such as compliance, patient safety and cybersecurity, your clinic has to deal with disruption to the industry, increasing patient demands, and innovation-driven changes via both scientific discoveries and emerging technologies. The best you can do right now, then, is plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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