Are You Ready if Disaster Strikes? Safety Tips for Your Practice Documents

March 15, 2022

ISMIE offers key steps you can take

No one likes to think about fires, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes, but such disasters are a reality and have the potential to have a major impact on your medical practice operations. For example, a recent fire at an Illinois warehouse used by a document storage company destroyed innumerable medical records. What precautions can you take to mitigate risk and keep practice disruptions to a minimum?
You may want to keep the following considerations in mind:
  • If records are offsite: Do you have a list of whose records were stored in the facility? If so, be sure to contact those who were impacted. In addition to this, it is important to post a notice on your practice’s website and/or within your facility for patients who you cannot reach and who may no longer be active in your practice. 
  • Keep records of any such notice: In the event you receive a request for records that were destroyed, careful documentation of the event can help demonstrate that they are not retrievable anymore. You might also consider keeping in your files any news articles about the disaster.
  • Depending on where your records or devices are stored and potentially damaged, it is recommended that you contact the property/casualty insurance carrier and/or the management company where this information was stored to report the incident and determine if additional coverages for the loss are available.
  • When selecting an offsite storage facility, ensure that it meets local and state requirements to help prevent damage to your medical records. This might include verifying that the facility has cooling systems for electronic devices, sprinkler systems and smoke detectors in working order.
  • Lastly, be sure to check with your personal and/or corporate counsel for guidance.
In addition to thinking about safeguarding your paper records, be sure you consider how you would handle a situation in which electronic records were compromised or destroyed.
Whether a major or minor incident, it is imperative to always have a disaster preparedness plan in place. ISMIE offers related resources including this article on emergency preparedness. There are also several helpful emergency preparedness planning tools and guidance available in our recent Lessons from the Field.
For more information, please contact our Risk Management Division by email
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