You never know when a disaster will hit. They can be anything from a natural disaster to a health epidemic and everything in between. While it is inevitable that your practice will be disrupted, how badly and for how long depends entirely on how well prepared you are. The goal of any disaster preparedness plan is to make sure that all staff members and patients are evacuated safely and/or treated, as well as ensuring that you can restore normal operations as quickly as possible.
Now is the time to make sure you are prepared. Below are the key steps to help you make sure your practice is where it needs to be.
Create a Business Impact Analysis.
Creating a business impact analysis involves sitting down and writing out every possible incident that could happen, ranging from something small like your computers failing to a large one, such as a meteor crashing into the office. In addition to listing out the disasters, you should also determine how likely each event is to occur, how each incident would affect your practice and what steps you would need to take in order to recover.
Let’s take a fire in the office as an example. Do you have well laid out plans in place to safely evacuate? Do you have someone on your staff designated with the task of ensuring everyone makes it out? What about someone responsible for removing items like cash and computer drives? Do you have back-up staff members in case the primary ones are out of the office? Are your important records, such as patient information, accounting data and contact information backed up at an off-site location? Is the equipment in your office insured? Do you have a plan in place to notify patients if the office is closed or moved to a temporary location?
Create a Team
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to dealing with an emergency. In order to create a plan, you will need to take stock of your employees and decide who can handle which responsibilities. Below are just a few of the jobs you will need to assign to various employees:
- Creating office policies and procedures.
- Organizing necessary training sessions.
- Identifying emergency exits and creating an evacuation plan.
- Assisting patients in evacuating.
- Notifying staff members who are not at work of the disaster.
- Calling patients to reschedule appointments.
- Dealing with insurance and vendor personnel.
- Assigning a contact person to deal with the media.
Create A Disaster Preparedness Plan
Once created, this plan should be part of your written policies and procedures. It should be reviewed and updated annually to account for changes to your practice or staff. This plan should be shared with all of your employees and kept in a place where they can easily review it if needed.
You should also consider testing out your plan. This involves running through drills of various disasters to make sure that everyone knows what needs to be done in the event of an emergency.
Create Proper Communication Channels
Communication is key. You should have contact information for all your employees, including cellphone numbers, email and family information. Some like to create a phone tree as a method of contacting as many employees as possible in the shortest amount of time. Others will create a text messaging plan that can contact everyone at once.
Contact information and account information should be gathered for your insurance provider, vendors and anyone else your practice deals with on a normal basis.
Patients also need to be contacted. You should set up either a call forwarding process or an outgoing message letting patients know the office is closed. Updating your website, sending out a mass email and posting something to your social media accounts are just some of the ways to quickly reach your patients.
Create a Method of Retreating Data
One of the most important things you can do to keep your practice running after a disaster is to easily recover lost data. You will need to work with your IT department to make sure patient data is easily retrievable and all critical files are stored at an off-site location.
Create an Evacuation and A Shelter in Place Plan
Keeping your staff and patients safe is the number one priority. While an evacuation plan is vital, so is a shelter in place plan. If your staff and patients must stay where they are, it is important to have survival supplies on hand. This includes water, food, personal hygiene products, flashlights, a portable radio and batteries.
Create a Post-Disaster Recovery Plan
Assuming you have prepared accordingly for a disaster, dealing with the aftermath should be easier. You will have already arranged secondary office space to use and have access to all of your patient, account and insurance records. Your patients have all been notified of the changes and your office phone number can be seamlessly transferred to your new location.
While the time it takes to fully recover from an event depends on the magnitude of the disaster, planning in advance is the number one way to ensure success.