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Communicating to Patients During a Natural Disaster

Oncology practices are already a flurry of activity. What happens when you add a natural disaster to the mix?

Oncology practices are already a flurry of activity. Patients are coming in and out, calling in with questions and concerns, and nurses and physicians are rushing around to stay on top of both administrative and clinical tasks. And what happens if you add a natural disaster to the mix? Is your practice prepared? Cancer patients are one of the most at-risk groups during a natural disaster. A recent study of patients undergoing radiation treatment for locally advanced non–small cell lung cancer found that those who were affected by a hurricane during treatment had worse overall survival. The same research also indicated that the psychological stress of a natural disaster may negatively impact cancer patients more than other groups putting both their physical and mental health at significant risk. Empowering patients with frequent updates and communication is one of the best ways to alleviate fears and stress.

CSNF & Canopy

Like many busy practices, Cancer Specialists of North Florida (CSNF) is always looking for strategies to quickly communicate with their patients. And communicating with their patients became of the utmost importance this past month when Hurricane Ian, the deadliest hurricane to hit Florida since 1935, arrived at their door. CSNF immediately called Canopy’s customer success team, to ask if all enrolled patients could receive message updates on clinic status and closures. Canopy, an intelligent care platform for oncology, is designed to improve workflows through its EMR-integrated suite of products that include ePRO-based patient monitoring, task management, triage pathways, advanced analytics, and program management (CCM/PCM/EOM). CSNF utilizes Canopy ePRO- based patient monitoring to deliver better patient outcomes and quality of life through continuous symptom monitoring and proactive intervention. Patients enroll in an easy-to-use app or interactive voice response (IVR) option and report their symptoms to care teams on an ongoing basis.

A Partner During a Crisis

When Canopy received the urgent call from CSNF to quickly message all patients, their customer success, product, and engineering teams immediately got to work. Canopy prides itself on being both a technology vendor and a trusted partner to its customers who can innovate rapidly to meet changing oncology needs.  Mass messaging by text was an adaption of an existing Canopy functionality that was built just three hours after CSNF’s initial call.

“At Canopy, we strive to be true partners for our customers. The ability to innovate rapidly to meet the needs of both patients and providers is the top priority. When we got the call from CSNF that they needed support communicating with their patients during Hurricane Ian, we were ready to help in any way possible. Our team is on a mission to improve patient care and that often means we have to be creative and flexible in unexpected situations like a natural disaster.”

—Andrew Frank, Product, Canopy

The practice was able to message 2,014 patients, many of whom responded with gratitude. The team was also able to identify and call all patients who had submitted urgent ePRO reports. The enhanced ticket prioritization and response quality through Canopy’s intelligent ticketing and triage workflows surfaced the most urgent tickets and key patient information.

“Our team is committed to staying close to patients, both inside and outside of the clinic. So when we needed to stay remotely connected with patients during Hurricane Ian, Canopy was our partner. Our patients were already engaged with the ePROs tool, and their team worked hand-in-hand with us to send out urgent communications for hurricane planning.”

—Beth Page, Director of Compliance, Cancer Specialists of North Florida

Is Your Practice Prepared?

Here are four strategies to consider when building your disaster recovery plan:

  1. Educate Patients Ahead of Time: All patients should have detailed information on their care plan, medication list, and important contact information. However, if your practice is in an area where natural disasters are more common, consider making this a mandatory part of patient education during treatment. 
  2. Plan for Continuity Across Staff: During a natural disaster, some of your team may be able to get into the practice and some may not. It’s important to have workflows where cross-collaboration and remote access are possible so that someone can quickly be assigned items or jump in as needed. 
  3. Communicate Remotely: Patient monitoring by Canopy’s platform is associated with a demonstrated 22% lower rate of emergency room and hospital admissions across its customers. During a natural disaster, emergency rooms may be difficult to get to, and offering patients the opportunity to communicate remotely can significantly alleviate stress on the healthcare system during a crisis by reducing unnecessary ER visits.  
  4. Select Vendors Carefully: When selecting technology vendors, be sure to ask how they securely back-up data, if data can be accessed during a natural disaster, what kind of customer support they offer, and finally, how they can collaborate and share data across local, state, and Federal levels if needed.

Are you interested in ensuring that you can communicate with patients remotely and manage urgent patient requests? Contact to learn how our platform can standardize care, improve daily workflows, and ultimately, improve patient care.