Are You Prepared For Disaster?

Jeff Hall

Life moves so fast that few people have time to consider “what if” scenarios, even if these scenarios could have a serious impact on their lives and the lives of others. However, all of this changed on September 11. During this time of grieving, loss and fear, our lives came to an abrupt halt as we were forced to deal with the possibility of an uncertain tomorrow. For many of us who didn’t experience direct personal losses, it was a time to reflect on our lives. It was also a time for professionals from all different fields to ask themselves troubling “what if” questions. For example, perhaps the most difficult question is: “What if a disaster (such as a fire, flood or hurricane) strikes my place of business?” In order to be prepared for such an event, DPMs should consider the following proactive tips. 1. Protect patient records. For those DPMs who do have computerized patient files, backing up those records is essential. Some say you should do weekly computer backups while others opt for daily backups. If you’re seeing upwards of 40 to 45 patients a day, backing up patient records at the end of the day is probably the safest way to go. Be sure to store the weekly backup discs in an off-site location and think about doing monthly tests of your backup system, if you’re not doing so already. Preserving your patient records is important in several respects. Obviously, you want to be able to chart a patient’s progress and the effectiveness of the treatment course, so you can ensure the best possible care. There is also the potential specter of litigation. What happens if you’re sued, asked to produce all of the records of the particular patient/plaintiff and only some of the records still exist? Now a seasoned lawyer may hang his or her hat on this fact, perhaps fueling a jury’s suspicions by emphasizing that only “some” of the patient’s records exist. Given the daily volume of patients and the lapse of time, it’s going to be quite difficult — if not impossible — to recall all the pertinent details in an individual patient file. 2. Does your insurance give you enough protection? Make sure you get a good insurance agent who is familiar with the needs of medical practices. While insurance can be quite expensive, don’t make the mistake of sacrificing adequate coverage for a cheaper deal. If a fire or flood ravages your practice, you’re going to need an agent you can rely upon, someone who can immediately help you get the ball rolling with potential contractors and suppliers. Most commercial insurance companies insure for a casualty loss of office, whether you own it or lease it. They will also usually cover costs you incur as a result of having to temporarily relocate your practice. While a quality insurance policy should cover all of your office and medical equipment, be sure to read the fine print and ask the right questions. Make sure your insurance offers “replacement value” for your equipment, not just “current value.” To be proactive on this issue, it’s a good idea to keep a thorough inventory of all equipment in your practice. Some DPMs say it is also a smart idea to have photos of the equipment as well. 3. Make arrangements ahead of time with another colleague that will allow you to see patients at his or her practice while your office is being rebuilt. Hopefully, this will enable you to keep seeing patients with minimal disruption in their care. This can be especially crucial if you have high-risk diabetes patients. While some people think they’ll never be affected by a disaster, recent events clearly show us that nobody is untouchable.

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