Health Alert Network Solutions Improve Efficiency, Patient Care
Sustaining the health and saving the lives of medical patients can depend on the effectiveness of communication systems shared among doctors, health care facilities and specialists. For medical professionals, a reliable communication and alert network is vital to efficiency in providing care and consultation for an ever-increasing number of patients. In times of local or national crisis — disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other emergencies — a health alert network and communication system improves response, reduces delays and facilitates interaction among responding individuals and organizations.
The creation, distribution and use of health alert networks is encouraged at the national level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the Public Health Information Network (PHIN) initiative, a program that promotes standards, functions and technical requirements for national interoperable information systems in support of local, state and national public health efforts. A health alert network is one of the components of PHIN.
Basic function of a health alert network
The basic function of a health alert network is to manage and distribute information about public health and safety emergencies, allowing appropriate personnel and organizations to respond quickly and effectively to the situation. Health alert networks are also used by doctors and medical professionals in health care settings to monitor, manage and respond to patient needs. A health alert network should be able to:
- Reliably send messages such as alerts, warnings, status reports, advisories, emergency procedures, disease reports, prevention guidelines, response plans, orders and all-clear notifications.
- Distribute messages to a variety of platforms by systems such as landlines and cellular phones, text messages, email messages, websites, desktop notifications, pagers, indoor and outdoor speakers, digital signs, closed-circuit televisions and cascade exchange messaging systems.
- Send thousands of messages at once, distributed and delivered according to pre-established hierarchies to individuals or numerous geographically dispersed persons.
- Allow two-way communication between alert-distributing organizations and recipients.
- Distribute messages in real-time to doctors, public health personnel, emergency responders and organizations involved in securing and maintaining public health.
- Monitor and verify receipt of information by the appropriate personnel and re-send messages and alerts as necessary.
Capabilities of a health alert network
In addition to direct alert and notification functions outlined above, a health alert network can provide the following specialized types of alert distribution:
- Cascade alerting: This function allows a local organization to send messages to persons or groups in another jurisdiction by sending alerts to that jurisdiction’s own alert system. The receiving alert system then handles the distribution of messages within its system, according to established protocols and priorities. This allows public health officials and organizations to communicate with neighboring communities and groups without needing to know or manage data on their neighbors’ alert hierarchies.
- Geo-targeted alerting: Geo-targeted alerting sends messages based on geographic location. It uses geographic information system (GIS) data to target recipients and provide maps and information on hospital locations, land topography, emergency conditions, local demographics and other relevant data.
- Interoperable communications: Interoperable communications distribute alerts and information from government agencies, news organizations or other third-party sources. Information can be received and dispatched from groups such as the National Weather Service, Department of Homeland Security, CDC and news stations and monitoring services.
- Reporting and tracking: Health alert networks should be able to provide confirmation that intended recipients have actually received and acknowledged the messages sent to them. The system should also be able to provide detailed reports on messages sent, time and date of all messages, the status of messages and the ability to search message information.
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