Alert Solutions Blog

School Breakfast Programs Lead to Better Academic Achievement, Says Study

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 31, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. You’ve probably heard this saying millions of times growing up. Here are 3 reasons why:

1. Your Memory
Studies show individuals who didn’t eat breakfast underperformed on short-term memory tests when compared to those who did eat breakfast.
 
2. Your Energy
The longer you go without eating, the more your body starts to slow and shut down.
 
3. Your Concentration
When your body hasn’t had food for many hours, its starts to focus on storing the energy it has left. This is when you lose your ability to concentrate.
 
Students in school need these things to be successful, and new research has found a strong connection Schoolbreakfastbetween good nutrition and good grades.

A recent study conducted by University of Iowa investigators discovered free school breakfast programs help students from low-income families perform better academically.

This study found students that participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Breakfast Program have higher academic achievement scores in math, science and reading than students that don’t participate.

For example, student math scores were about 25% higher at participating schools during a student’s elementary school tenure. Reading and science scores showed similar gains as well.

The study also found the impact was cumulative, showing the longer a student participated in the School Breakfast Program, the higher their academic achievement was.

The Federal Government started the School Breakfast Program for students from low-income families in 1966. The School Breakfast Program is administered in coordination with state governments. Many states require local k-12 school districts to offer the breakfast program if a certain percentage of their student families meet income eligibility guidelines.

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Topics: student health, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs

Understanding the Importance of Automated Patient Notifications in Healthcare

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

Automated patient notifications provide numerous benefits to healthcare providers – including increased office efficiency, better productivity and high return on investment, to name a few. But what benefits does it provide the patient?

According to a study by Athena Health, patient health outcomes can be greatly improved through the implementation of an effective patient communication solution. Automated messaging is a big factor of this solution.

How else can automated patient notifications benefit your patients?

Reduces Miscommunicationappointmentremindertext
A study from the Joint Commission estimated that up to 80% of self-care medical mistakes occur because of miscommunication between the doctor and patient. Automated patient notifications can help reiterate self-care instructions and medication adherence to reduce remedial costs from complications.
 
Increases Patient Engagement
Patients that stay actively engaged with their own health experience better results and lower costs, according to a Health Affairs policy briefing. One optimal way to increase patient engagement is through automated patient notifications. For example, medical practices that send automated appointment reminders and recall notices experience reduced no-show rates.
 
Improves Quality of Medical Care
Automated patient notifications improve the quality of medical care because it meets demand and has a wide variety of uses. It can also improve the relationship between the doctor and patient, which ultimately leads to better trust and compliance. Read more here.
 
The importance of automated patient notifications in healthcare cannot be underestimated. Is your medical practice ready to reap all of the benefits?
 
Download our brochure to learn more about how we can help you and your patients!

Alert Solutions' Patient Communication Suite Download Our Brochure!

Topics: automated patient notifications, Medical, patient communication, patient engagement

‘Going Green’ in K-12 Schools - 4 Projects You Can Start Today

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

While it’s a great idea to use Earth Day to help students understand the importance of ’going green’, it’s also vital to encourage students to be environmentally conscious throughout the year.

From turning off lights in the classroom to students riding their bike to school, there are ‘going green’ initiatives that can work for everyone. This post includes 4 exciting ‘going green’ projects k-12 schools can try throughout the school year.

1. Start a Student-Run Recycling Club
First, educate students, teachers and staff members what materials can and cannot be recycled. Then, ensure each classroom, copy room and office has at least one recycling bin in it. Have students volunteer to collect and empty the recycling bins in specific rooms.
 
2. Compost Lunch Scrapsschoolsgogreen1
Some schools are ‘going green’ by finding an environmental use for the waste created by school lunches.  These schools place a separate trash bin in lunch rooms for food waste specifically.  These scraps are sent to a compost heap where they are churned into nutrient-enriched dirt that farmers or landscape architects can buy.
 
3. Take an Environmentally Informative Field Trip
Field trips are another great way to help students become more environmentally conscious. Some environmentally informative field trip ideas could include:
  • Local Landfill
  • Recycling Center
  • Organic Farm
  • Alternative Energy Plant
4. Go Paperless!paperlessschools
Did you know k-12 schools, on average, use about 250,000 pieces of paper each year? To help reduce their reliance on paper, many k-12 schools are adopting digital communication initiatives like email, voice calls and SMS text messages. In addition to ‘going green’ and reducing paper use, digital notification systems like Alert Solutions can also tell school administrators if these messages were actually read!

Interested in using digital communication to go paperless at your school? Download our electronic brochure today to learn more!

School Announcement Notification System Download Our Brochure!

Topics: earth day, environment, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, go green

Keep Your Email Subscribers! Reduce Email Marketing Opt-Outs Proactively

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

A robust email subscriber list doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, energy and brand awareness to grow into something really valuable. In fact, it’s likely one of your most important marketing assets. This makes it all the more painful to see recipients unsubscribe after each and every email marketing campaign.

But even though your email subscribers can legally opt-out at any time they choose, there ARE proactive steps you can take to prevent them from ever wanting to. Care to learn more? Keep reading!

>>Encourage “Opt-Down” instead of “Opt-Out”.
It’s challenging to predict exactly when each of your email subscribers would like to receive an email from you. So why not ask them? Some organizations are now offering ‘opt-down’ options for email subscribers who simply want more consistent or fewer email marketing campaigns rather than none at all. For example, allowing your email subscribers to choose a specific product line or email frequency rate could mean the difference between an opt-in and an opt-out.
 paperlessschools
>>Deploy Unsubscribe Surveys.
Let’s face it, some of your email marketing subscribers just can’t be saved. But to gain a better insight, deploy unsubscribe surveys. These are quick to complete and will allow you to capture the exact reason, or brief description, as to why your email subscriber does not want to receive emails any longer. You can then use this intelligence to mitigate future unsubscribes.
 
>>Provide Alternative Communication Methods.
Inbox competition is fierce these days. An email subscriber whose inbox goes unchecked could become overwhelming after just a few days. And if your email marketing campaigns do fall victim to an unsubscribe rampage, this may not necessarily mean that the recipient wants to sever all ties. That’s why it’s important to offer alternative communication methods. With options such as social media, text messaging and blogs, your brand stays top-of-mind.
 
Alert Solutions allows you to keep your subscribers beyond just email! Schedule a demo today to learn how our WebLaunch™ platform can help you communicate with subscribers using multiple channels.

Topics: multi-channel messaging, marketing lists, email marketing, email marketing best practices

Unpaid Lunch Balances Create Financial Challenges for K-12 School Districts

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 17, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

The following scenario is played out daily in K-12 school districts across the United States. A student selects a lunch and takes it to the cashier to pay. The cashier notices the student’s lunch balance is zero and is then required to take one of two actions:schoolcafeteria

1. They can charge the lunch to the student’s lunch account – making it a negative lunch balance.
2. They can take the lunch from the student and instruct them to select an alternative meal.

Either scenario can create issues within the K-12 school district. Charging the lunch could mean a greater financial hardship on the school. On the other hand, swapping out what the student wants to eat may generate a phone call from an angry parent.

A Growing Issue
In a recent survey conducted by the School Nutrition Association, 53% of k-12 school districts reported seeing an increase in the number of students who cannot pay for their lunch. Nearly 33% of those k-12 school districts said they also anticipate a ‘significant increase’ in that figure.
 
Did you know the USDA requires k-12 school lunch programs that are part of the National School Lunch Program to zero out their lunch balances at the end of each school year or they could lose funding for the following year?
 
In a k-12 school district with 4,000 or 5,000 students, the annual lunch debt could run $20,000 or $30,000. In a k-12 school district in a major city such as New York, Chicago or Los Angeles, the lunch debt can reach millions of dollars. 

Why Is This Happening
Here are the two most common reasons why a student’s lunch balance may fall into arrears:
 
1. Paperwork
The most common occurs at the start of the school year, when families who may qualify for free or reduced-price meals must file their applications. Parents have up to 30 days to apply, during which time a window of debt opportunity opens.
 
2. Forgetfulness
Then there are parents who simply forget to keep up with their child’s lunch account. In order to help keep parent’s informed, may k-12 school districts send parents an email or text message when their child’s lunch balance has reached a predetermined level.
 
Alert Solutions’ low lunch balance alert feature can automatically send parents an email, voice call or text message with student name and remaining dollar amount.
 
With automated low lunch balance alerts, there is less risk that a student’s lunch balance will become negative or remain low for an extended period of time – easing school administrator’s minds.
 
How does your school handle negative or low lunch balances? Share your thoughts on our blog!

Topics: school announcement, lunch balance, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs

Going Green Takes Commitment – Advice for Property Managers

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

Spring is right around the corner. What better time than to discuss going green at your property?

Going green has been a topic of consideration in the property management industry for quite some time. And according to research, the benefits are plentiful. It saves money on energy and, of course, helps the environment. One article even suggests that property managers that go green attract more considerate tenants that care about these initiatives.

Nevertheless, going green is a big commitment for property managers. It’s such a big commitment that Appfolio has coined a new term, “green-ish”, to describe properties that don’t take the full step in going green.

Are you having trouble making the conversion at your property? Check out some helpful advice below:

1. Start with tenant communication! Whether residential or commercial, your tenants are alwaysgreenpropmgmt on-the-go. Pinning a flyer to a bulletin board in the lobby may not be the best way to reach them. Instead, distribute newsletters, memos or other quick notes digitally using the communication channels your tenants prefer – email, voice and SMS text messaging! Another way to reduce paper and ink is to implement an electronic rent payment system. Check out more benefits about using digital tenant communication.  

2. Make green investments throughout your propery. It’s more than just energy-efficient light bulbs. Although a great start, units with replacement doors and windows, as well as ENERGY STAR appliances, can help reduce your tenants’ utility bills too. Low-flow bathroom fixtures and motion-sensing exterior lighting also helps to conserve resources.

3. Encourage tenants to go green with you. Have you provided recycling bins to your tenants? Be sure to notify them of pick-up or drop-off locations for their recyclables. Property managers can also offer discounts on rent payments for automatic withdrawals. Remember, going green requires commitment from everyone at your property!

Could automated messaging be the first step in taking your property green? Download our Property Management Brochure to see how we can help!

Check Out More Blog Posts!

Topics: property management, environment, tenant communication, tenant notifications, go green

Social-Emotional Programs Pay Off in K-12 Schools, One Study Suggests

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

According to a new study by the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education (CBCSE), social-emotional programs in K-12 schools may be worth the investment.

In the study, “The Economic Value of Social and Emotional Learning”, researchers analyzed existing evaluations of six prominent social-emotional learning interventions in K-12 schools, which include:SocialEmotional

1. 4Rs
Combatting aggression and violence (bullying prevention)
 
2. Positive Action
Promoting positive thinking and self-concept
 
3. Life Skills Training
Reducing substance abuse and violence
 
4. Second Step
Improving problem-solving and emotional management
 
5. Responsive Classroom
Improve teacher efficacy to influence SE skills and school community
 
6. Social and Emotional Training
Classroom intervention to support cognitive and SE competencies

Researchers found that “for every dollar schools spend on these six common social-emotional learning programs, those interventions return an average $11 worth of benefits,” according to the article on EducationWeek.org.

Costs associated with these social-emotional learning programs include personnel, materials, equipment, facilities and more. Researchers at the CBCSE estimated benefits by measuring the financial impacts of the interventions’ outcomes.

For example, a successful bullying intervention may reduce missed school days that can cause students to struggle academically. It may also reduce the amount of costly personnel time that school administrations need to spend addressing bullying incidents.

Social-emotional programs that lead to improved academic results may also lead to higher income for students later in life, the report says.

Other studies have shown the effects of school bullying can last well in to a person’s 50s and present side effects including:

- Depression 
- Lower educational levels
- Higher risk of being unemployed
- Lower salary

These findings support the benefits the CBCSE experienced in their study. To read the entire study, click here.

Topics: bullying, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs

Electronic Patient Communication Improves Quality of Medical Care – 3 Reasons How

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 05, 2015 @ 11:03 AM

In the past, a patient’s visit to the office may have been the only time the healthcare provider communicated with them. Things are much different today.

With Meaningful Use empowering patients to take more responsibility for their own health, the amount of patient communication between office visits has changed indefinitely.

From email to voice to SMS text messaging, healthcare providers are engaging patients, providing follow ups and relaying lab results using electronic communication.

Does your medical practice need a communication boost? Consider the following:patientwaitingroom

#1) Meet Patient Demand
The need for electronic patient communication in healthcare is right under our noses. Patients are demanding more timely communication from their healthcare providers. With cell phones nearby at all times, voice and SMS text messaging are especially popular ways to reach patients where ever they are.
 
#2) Endless Uses for Electronic Patient Communication
Electronic patient communication has a wide variety of applications in the medical industry. Depending on the channel of messaging, healthcare providers can streamline the patient communication process for better health outcomes. Appointment reminders, lab result notifications and collection reminders are just a few uses that help keep patients engaged.
 
#3) Measurable Benefits to Healthcare Providers
Healthcare providers experience higher efficiency and productivity with the use of electronic patient communication. Patients’ satisfaction and retention is also said to improve with more consistent communication from their healthcare providers. This can also reduce unnecessary office visits and inquiries.
 
…What about Security?
HIPAA regulations protect patient health information transmitted through electronic patient communication.  >> Check Out Our Compliance Document <<

For more information on improving your quality of medical care with electronic patient communications, download our Guide to Effective Patient Communication today!

Download the Patient Communication Best Practice Guide!

Topics: appointment reminders, Medical, patient communication, patient satisfaction, patient engagement

Developing a School Emergency Response Plan – What You Need to Know

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 03, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

A crisis can happen at any time, anywhere. Effective and safe K-12 schools are well prepared for any potential crisis. Emergency response is an important component of any emergency preparedness and communication plan.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, all school-based emergency response plans should be based on the following 4 phases of emergency management:

1. Mitigation - Create Actions that Reduce or Eliminate Long-Term Risks to People or Property
2. Preparedness - Focus on Planning for National Disaster or Terrorist Events
3. Response - Take Actual Steps to Save Lives and Prevent Further Damage during a Crisis
4. Recovery - Restore the Learning and Teaching Environment after a Crisis

These four phases help create the groundwork for a continuous process where the result of each phase can help build a stronger emergency response plan for each school. A clear understanding of all the phases is needed to coordinate an effective and comprehensive emergency response plan.

The recommendations below are based on the practical experience of developing a school emergency response: emergencyprepschool

1. Building Security and Safety
- Access to school buildings should be limited during the day. (Example: Swipe-Card or Code Key)

- Each school should have a building site map with exits and HVAC/utility shut-offs clearly marked.
 
2. Preparation for Large-Scale Emergencies
- School administrators and local emergency responders should meet annually to update emergency preparedness plans.
 
- All schools should have an emergency kit readily available and safety drills should be conducted routinely.
 
3. Communication
Communication is the foundation of any effective emergency response plan. It helps reduce miscommunication and keeps parents informed.
 
- Every school must develop a means of rapid communication with parents. Mass notification systems, like Alert Solutions, can reach hundreds and thousands of parents quickly and are extremely valuable.
 
- Schools should house multiple contact methods for parents, including email address and phone numbers. With Alert Solutions Parent Portal, schools can gain access to an unlimited number of contact points.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ plan that will work for every school. Each individual K12 school and district should modify these guidelines to create an emergency response plan that best suits their needs.

For more best practice tips and tricks, download our Emergency Preparedness Guide today!

Download Alert Solutions'  Emergency Preparedness Guide

Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

Using a Short Code for Your Next Mobile Campaign? Read This First!

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

Businesses love sending out mobile campaigns with short codes. They are easily remembered, help to establish brand identity, and can be exclusive if dedicated to one organization.

But they may not be as easy as they look.

Starting a mobile campaign via short code requires a lot of preparation. The short code needs to be procured and licensed. And because of the level of intrusiveness, the legalities surrounding mobile campaigns are stricter than other messaging channels. Businesses need to be fully aware of these laws.

Short code compliance standards put in place by mobile carriers also need to be met:

Opt-in requirements*
Just as in traditional mobile campaigns, you cannot send unsolicited SMS text messages from short codes. You must have consent from each recipient:smsshortcode
  • Mobile opt-in – (when your short code receives an opt-in request directly from a mobile phone)
A double opt-in process is recommended, so that you can confirm the subscribers’ intent. The confirmation should describe the nature of the mobile campaign and the message frequency.
  • Non-Mobile opt-in – (when a recipient provides their mobile phone number, such as through a landing page)
A double opt-in process is required. The confirmation should follow a similar flow as described above.
 
HELP and STOP*
Mobile carriers require your short code mobile campaign to accommodate HELP and STOP requests:
  • HELP - A HELP response should describe the nature of the mobile campaign, a support line and the message frequency.
  • STOP - A STOP request, or opt-out request, must be handled promptly. An opt-out confirmation must be sent to the recipient and no more SMS text messages may be sent.

*The above pertains to short codes used in the United States. For information about using an international short code, please contact us for more details.

To learn more about our SMS text messaging capabilities, download our SMS text messaging brochure.

Topics: compliance, SMS text messaging, SMS Best Practices, mobile marketing, short code

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