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 Disaster Preparedness for Your Medical Practice
  By Julie Brightwell, JD, RN, Director, Healthcare System Patient Safety, Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management, The Doctors Company
  Natural disasters occur repeatedly nationwide. They include wildfires, hurricanes, tropical storms, torna- does, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and other forms of severe weather. The most recent addition to the list of possible disasters is pandemic disease— which continues to affect the availability and delivery of healthcare. Disasters can occur suddenly and without warning, highlighting the importance of advance preparation.
A disaster can overwhelm a medical practice, with physical damage that can include shattered windows, flood debris, power outages, disrupted telephone service, computer and technology system outages, unsafe drinking water, destroyed medical records, medication exposure to temperature and humidity extremes, contaminated instruments and supplies, and building structure failure.
Physicians may be forced to relocate their practices quickly―sometimes permanently―or to move sched- uled procedures to different facilities. Practices may be forced to close for public safety for days or even weeks. These disruptions can be catastrophic to the delivery of appropriate medical services to patients and, potentially, to the long-term financial well-being of the office and the individual providers. Is your practice prepared for a disaster?
Plan Now
Before the next disaster strikes, make sure your practice has a written plan in place. A checklist, ordered by priority and customized to specific types
of disasters, can provide the framework for a compre- hensive plan. The checklist should include these elements:
• Backup and recovery methods for electronic data, including the electronic health record and billing records. Methods could involve cloud storage or remote servers. Retain at least one copy of the backup offsite. All backup and recovery systems must be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
• An inventory with photographs of tangible assets, such as medications, durable medical equipment, medical devices and machinery, office and medi- cal supplies used during the provision of services, computers, artwork, fixtures, and furniture.
• Copies of important legal documents, such as licenses, leases, permits, contracts, deeds, insurance policies and certificates of coverage, tax records, office policies and procedures, and personnel files. These documents must be readily accessible if a disruption occurs.
• A list of important phone contacts and email addresses, such as staff, healthcare profession- als, vendors, insurance agents, licensing agencies, practice attorneys, and emergency response officials.
• A full-circle call tree for staff that outlines who contacts whom with mobile and alternative contact numbers.

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