When natural disasters threaten patients’ ability to receive necessary medical care, Colpitts Clinical must track these weather events closely while simultaneously arranging for emergency alternatives. This was the case with the September 2017 hurricane season in the United States, which had devastating effects on Texas and Florida, as well as Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. In these events, time is of the essence.
Once forecasters predicted that a severe hurricane was going to strike Houston, Colpitts Clinical coordinators began booking travel for patients living in Houston so they could evacuate the city for their treatment destinations before all flights were canceled. Many patients were able to travel that same day and, despite the short notice, were comforted knowing that their travel arrangements were secured by a team of professionals.
While many Houston residents struggled to get out of the city, some were in need of getting to Houston for medical treatments. One Colpitts Clinical patient was left with no option but to drive to Houston since all flights into the city were canceled, so the Colpitts Clinical coordinators made the journey as quick and stress-free as possible by calling ahead to various gas stations along the patient’s route to ensure that they were open and had gas available.
Ongoing communication after trial sites shut down due to hurricane
Less than a month later in Miami, Hurricane Irma shut down multiple clinical trial sites. Colpitts Clinical managed ongoing communications during and after business hours to reschedule patient appointments and arrange travel. Patients who had temporarily relocated to Miami in order to participate in the trials were concerned that their hotels would not remain open. The Colpitts Clinical teams placed countless calls to secure space and ensure that patients would not arrive to find their hotel closed. This was an ongoing process as the path of the hurricane continuously changed and impacted decisions on whether or not businesses would remain open.
One asset that is irreplaceable in the travel industry is experience, and Colpitts Clinical’s experience loaned itself to helping patients weather these storms as comfortable as possible. The team leveraged the prepaid, reloadable cards provided for patient reimbursement in order to expedite payments that would otherwise be affected by systems being offline during the hurricane. In addition, some payments were made in advance to patients in the hurricane’s path so that they would have funds available in an emergency. Experience has also shown Colpitts that in the midst of chaos, patients may not have their comfort in mind because they’re so focused on every other aspect of their travel. The Colpitts Clinical team recommended that patients who may not typically travel with a wheelchair do so in the days leading up to the hurricane because they knew that airports would be overcrowded with limited seating, and anyone undergoing medical treatment should not be physically stressed by having to stand for extended periods or make long walks between security and gates.
Proactivity is the most valuable tool when considering patient travel, but Colpitts Clinical’s role in providing logistics doesn’t stop at boarding or check-in. Colpitts Clinical maintained extra staffing every night and weekend throughout the hurricane to make sure that someone was always available to answer patient questions, ease concerns, and make the last-minute accommodations that could determine whether a patient received necessary treatment.