Disasters, naturally occurring or otherwise, are things most of us don’t like to think about. However, when a medical practice is not adequately prepared, disasters can cause catastrophic damage resulting in a substantial loss of revenue.
Physicians and practice administrators should develop a comprehensive response plan before a disaster occurs—because it’s the last thing that you’ll want to deal with during or after the event has taken place.
A good place to start is with a checklist that asks the following questions:
- Does the practice have any vital equipment located in a flood plain or in a potential danger area?
- Are all fire alarms/extinguishers in working order?
- Does the practice have adequate redundant back-ups for data/information technology?
- In the event that servers are damaged, how long will it take to restore the data? How often are data routinely backed up?
- Are the practice’s medical records stored in a safe location?
- Are copies of insurance policies and important financial information stored in a safe place?
- Are all insurance policies up to date? Do they include coverage for loss of income (due to potential delays to get back up and running)?
- If the practice has expanded, has the insurance also been expanded?
- Does the practice have adequate working capital on hand to carry on until insurance claims can be processed and paid out? Would the practice consider assisting or be able to assist employees and physicians who may have lost their homes and/or personal belongings due to the disaster?
- Does the practice have a back-up generator and an adequate fuel supply?
- Has the practice developed a plan ‘B’ in case a disaster makes the main location unusable?
- Does the practice have a supervisory disaster team that includes first, second, and third responders and employee contact information?
A supervisory disaster team would be responsible for the following:
- Establishing a practice spokesperson to handle media calls, if necessary
- Establishing a clear chain of command and a calling tree that includes phone numbers and alternate methods for contacting employees—important when Internet or phone services are unavailable
- Designating a place for employees to meet in case the facility no longer exists
- Taking pictures of the business as it exists now to serve as a reference for insurance purposes after the disaster
- Establishing a way for patients to contact their medical providers via an interim phone number, temporary website, or other methods
Once the checklist is complete, perform a mock run-through to make sure everything is in place. Although it may not be possible to prepare for every kind of disaster, having a well thought-out, comprehensive plan in place ahead of time will help get a practice back to normal in a reasonable amount of time with a minimal loss of revenue.
Rick Mailoux is the practice administrator at South County Orthopedics and Physical Therapy, Wakefield, R.I., and a member-at-large of the American Association of Orthopaedic Executives (AAOE) Member Communications Committee.
This article was adapted with permission from the November 2010 AAOE newsletter.