Earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis. The last few weeks have reminded us just how quickly life can go from 0 to 10. In fact, over the last year alone, the United States has seen over 100 catastrophes resulting in billions and billions in losses. That equates to a disaster of some sort every three days! Scientists warn that these numbers are on the rise.
A poll conducted by OSHA found that more than 50% of healthcare facilities had been required to evacuate or initiate an emergency response at some point. Years of work and dedication can be lost in minutes. The good news is that studies have shown that planning ahead can have a significant impact on outcomes.
(Don’t miss our follow-up post where we discuss what you need to do to reach out to your patients during a disaster. Tip: It will include ready-to-go emails you can send).
Before a Disaster
- Select a staff member to be the safety coordinator—overseeing all emergency protocols and functions.
- Fully insure your practice to cover potential losses.
- Make sure all of your records are backed up and/or located in the cloud. Back-up records at least twice daily, optimally in different locations. This should be possible through your EHR or your PRM solution.
- Make sure all records with PHI are stored in HIPAA-compliant storage areas in multiple locations.
- Store a set of keys and other essentials in an offsite location.
- Develop a plan for notifying staff and patients if an emergency affects your office.
- Develop a plan for what to do if disaster strikes while patients are in your office—evacuation and potential shelter within your practice (if needed for disasters such as tornadoes).
- Create contingency plans for backup power and emergency lighting.
- Stock your facility with the needed supplies, water, and food in case you are stuck at the office. FEMA recommends having enough supplies for three days.
- Maintain an up-to-date list of contacts for assistance that might be needed. These include local emergency contacts, state and federal authorities, utility companies, medical equipment and supply contractors, etc.
- Run regular disaster response drills—both with patients in the office and without.
After Disaster Strikes
Once disaster strikes, it is critical that you follow out all plans as prepared in advance. In addition, make sure you:
- Communicate with local and state authorities as needed.
- Reach out to patients to give them direction.
- Move all drugs and needles away from your facility to discourage looting. Put a sign on your door letting people know that all valuables have been moved.
- Be prepared to work with limited resources or in a new location.
If you would like to know more about what how to protect your clinic in the case of a disaster, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page on emergency preparedness here.
Cloud based platforms like Solutionreach can keep the lines of communication open. One of our offices recently experienced a devastating fire. They had not been backing up their server and lost all of their records. However, since they were clients of Solutionreach (which is located on the cloud), they were able to contact all of their patients and communicate instructions effectively. If you want to know more about the importance of cloud based platforms, read this blog post here.