3 keys to ensuring your data weathers a storm

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As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East coast this week, physician practices had to act on their plans for protecting patients, employees and their data throughout the emergency. When facing any type of disaster, managing health information technology and connectivity issues is as critical as it can be complicated.

Consider the following best practices for getting through a crisis and back to business as smoothly as possible:

1. Know how remote data is stored and can be accessed.
Your plans for disaster preparedness are only as good as those of the vendors you entrust with your data. If you use a cloud-based electronic health record system, for example, find out where your provider stores its primary data and whether there is also a backup location, advised Physicians Practice. And don't forget to plan ahead for how you'll access these records, noted HealthcareITNews. Solutions could range from reliance on emergency portable cell towers to tethering a 3G phone to a computer to get connected.

2. Duplicate needed paper.
Sami Spencer, CEO of Missoula (Mont.) Bone & Joint and Surgery Center, explained to MGMA her plan should her paper records be destroyed in a disaster. "We have patient demographic information scanned into our practice management system and our transcription is also stored electronically," she says. "Our system backups are stored at an offsite facility so we could recreate most of the patient charts."  And whether your records are paper or electronic, some information you should get in hand immediately if you have warning of a potential natural disaster. "Are you printing patient schedules for next week? Printing patient summaries? It's something they should have been thinking about last week," Mike Detjen of consultancy Arcadia Solutions, told HealthcareITNews.

3. Plan where you'll relocate physical data.
If you have to physically relocate your servers, identify a safe, secure place to bring them. Keeping HIPAA concerns in mind, remember that you can't just move it "to somebody's garage," noted Physicians Practice. A satellite office away from the threat is a good option, but if you don't have one, now is the time to determine another solution.

To learn more:
- see the post from Physicians Practice
- read the post from HealthcareITNews
- see the post from MGMA's In Practice blog

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Katrina lessons still flooding in
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Fierce Q&A: Prepare your practice to handle a public health crisis

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