Creating an emergency plan
Planning can go a long way to prepare you for an emergency situation during a telemedicine or telehealth appointment and set expectations with your patients.
With telehealth, you’re seeing patients outside of the safety and control of your office. An emergency situation may arise from a wide range of causes, including a mental health crisis, stroke/heart attack, overdose, etc.
Answer the following questions with your patient before or during their first appointment.
- What is your current location? Confirm the patient’s exact location at the beginning of each telemedicine appointment and get their full address.
- What are the emergency numbers for that location? 911 only works if you are in the same location as the person needing help, and calls cannot usually be forwarded to a different location. Search online and note numbers for local police, fire department, mobile crisis unit, crisis hotline, and the nearest urgent care or emergency room.
- What is the emergency contact information for your provider or other health care professional(s)?
- Who is your local emergency contact or support person? A family member, friend, neighbor — someone nearby who can offer help in the event of a crisis.
- Get patient authorization to release information to their emergency contact if needed.
- What happens if the call is disconnected during an emergency? Who will call whom and at what number? Plan for alternate ways to reconnect to your patient via phone or an alternate video platform.
- What situations will lead to putting the emergency plan into action?
- What will happen in the event of an emergency? For example, when to call an emergency contact to help check on the patient, transport the patient, or call 911 from the patient’s location.
- What happens if you miss an appointment, and it is possible you may be in a crisis?
- What circumstances will require a referral to in-person treatment or care?
For details about creating a patient safety and emergency plan, see:
- Patient Safety and Emergency Management — from the American Psychiatric Association