“When you think about a very busy hospital that’s being taxed because of a catastrophic disaster, the general surgical skills of ENT doctors extend far beyond what might be required for airway management,” he said, potentially including general surgical procedures and basic orthopedic care.
Explore This IssueSeptember 2011
Consider Tools, Equipment
Next, examine the potential impact of a disaster on your equipment and inventory. For insurance purposes, maintain an updated record of medical and office equipment and keep a running inventory of medical and office supplies, including refrigerated drugs. Following a disaster, you may need to discard many supplies as a precautionary measure because of contamination risk.
If your practice is housed in a dedicated building, consider purchasing a propane generator for emergency power. If you’re located in a flood zone, install the generator on the roof of your building instead of in the basement, Hertz said.
Consider developing a reciprocal arrangement with an otolaryngology practice on the other side of town or in a neighboring community, Dahl added. In the event one practice is damaged or destroyed, those otolaryngologists can temporarily use the other practice as a patient care center, treating their patients after hours and on weekends until their office is repaired or reestablished. “You don’t know which side of town might be affected by a disaster, so both groups must be open to the idea,” Dahl said.
Also consider the impact on your support services. If your bank floods, how will you manage accounts payable? How will you process your accounts receivable and daily deposits? What’s your backup plan if you lose access to your lockbox? If mail service is disrupted, how will patient payments be routed to your practice? If you change locations, even temporarily, how will financial institutions and vendors find your office? Your disaster plan should address these issues.
“After Katrina, it took months—years, in some cases—to reestablish the financial and postal connections,” Dahl noted.
Back Up Critical Documents
Finally, ensure that you’ll have access to patient and financial information if your physical plant is damaged or destroyed. Back up your electronic medical record or clinical and billing data at least weekly—preferably daily—and store the information on a remote server, preferably in another state. An on-site server or backup tapes will be of no value if your practice burns to the ground or washes away.
Secure a copy of the network schematic of your hardware, Hertz said, as well as software disks and documentation so that you can restore your system if your network crashes. Gather vital documents, insurance policies, service contracts, leases, warranties and vendor contacts, for instance, and store them off site or maintain them in a waterproof emergency box that would leave the practice with the last person out the door. Develop a chain of command for that responsibility, Hertz advised.