Plan Ahead for Disaster

Every practice should develop a disaster response plan. Fire, flooding, blizzards, earthquakes, high winds, and more can cause havoc if you haven’t prepared to handle them, documented your process, and discussed it with staff.
Data recall can be enhanced by storing information offsite, either as a physical file periodically sent to a fortified location, or uploaded to a cloud. In either case, find out how well protected the data is during transport and storage.

  • Is the fortified site safe from the elements and theft?
  • Is the Internet provider able to encrypt the data during transfer?
  • Are the servers on which the data is stored secure against misfortune?
  • Do the data storage providers have disaster plans? If so, what are they?

Have a plan for your facility, as well. What happens if employees are present when disaster strikes, or is imminent? Who will stay in the facility and who will go home? What will staff do? What will they eat? Where will they sleep? And how will they keep in touch with loved ones?
If staff can’t get to your facility, what can be done offsite? Can the practice convert to paper records for a short time if equipment housing the EHR and its data are damaged? Is there a phone tree to contact staff, referring providers, and patients? Include cell and text-messaging protocols in the disaster plan.
Back-up power is essential, as is restored Internet service. Ask your Internet service provider how it plans to handle or avert disaster, and how repairs are prioritized. Plug your servers and computers into battery-equipped uninterrupted power supply units, and consider buying a portable generator before a disaster occurs.

John Verhovshek
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John Verhovshek, MA, CPC, is a contributing editor at AAPC. He has been covering medical coding and billing, healthcare policy, and the business of medicine since 1999. He is an alumnus of York College of Pennsylvania and Clemson University.

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