Everyone is aware that disaster can strike anytime and anywhere, and there are common situations—such as a thunderstorm or a flood—that can make it impossible for you to keep your practice open and continue seeing patients.
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Explore This IssueMay 2012
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Are you ready if a disaster destroys your office space and patient records? Creating a disaster plan can be as simple as deciding where to store duplicate patient records and financial documents and how to move staff and patients to a secure area. There are a few basic steps that are necessary to put a plan of action together, but commitment is the key to making the plan work.
Since the scope of disasters varies, the scope of the plan might vary as well. Key steps for your office to begin planning can include getting buy-in from your staff, brainstorming, and executing the plan.
Creating an office disaster plan is a team effort and every staff member should be included in the plan from the beginning. A staff meeting is a great starting point to develop a plan and procedure for dealing with disasters.
This step is an informal and open discussion to get everyone’s buy-in, because each employee will have a role to play once the plan is complete. It is important to review the necessity of the plan and allow staff members to contribute to it.
Seek input from everyone in each department, including the front desk staff, medical assistant staff, nurses, and business staff. Ask them to put together a list of all the possible disasters that could happen in your area and make a contingency plan for each. It is also important to look at the situation from the patient’s perspective, because it is easy to overlook the simplest concerns your patients might have if they are in the practice during a disaster.
During the brainstorming session, use a “plan-do-check-act” approach to create the plan. Components of the approach include:
- Define the disaster;
- Develop a process to address the problem;
- Plan for the disaster, assign responsibilities;
- Do a drill to confirm that the plan works;
- Check for areas that were overlooked;
- Act to improve the process in a cyclic manner.
It is not possible to avoid all disasters, but you can anticipate your needs based on the type of disaster. It is good practice to test and retest your plan in order to ensure its success. Be proactive and test your plan with realistic scenarios and engage your office in actual disaster drills. Assign a member of your office to score the steps in the disaster plan and record how well the plan was followed. This should help you identify areas that might need to be revised.
It is very important to protect your practice and your staff, so remember to insure yourself in several ways by purchasing practice-based insurance. Property and casualty policies sometimes don’t cover natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, so you might consider purchasing a separate policy to cover these threats. Also, keep your insurance policy up to date and in a location that is accessible if there is a disaster.
With a few simple tools and a commitment to making this a priority, you can be confident that you have the plan, skills, and resources to manage your professional practice regardless of the circumstances that may arise.
For more information on practice management issues, contact Cindy Gutierrez, senior specialist, insurance and practice management at [email protected] or (404) 633-3777, ext. 310.