I decided last fall that I wanted to take the CHPS (certified in healthcare privacy and security) exam through AHIMA. My first step was to attend a bootcamp presented by AHIMA (which I highly recommend) after the annual meeting.
When I came home it was time to start studying. My study led me to stories of how different facilities were putting HIPAA and HITECH into place and I found some of the accounts fascinating.
During my studies about disaster recovery I read stories of hospitals that not only made plans but had to carry them out and I was deeply moved.
A short definition of disaster recovery means to have a plan will allow operation during a time when something is preventing access to either patient information or the facility, while still having the ability to provide even a limited level of care. The ultimate goal is to get back up and running as quickly as possible after the incident.
Examples may include a fire, severe weather, such as a tornado or hurricane, and power failures that are extended. Many of us live in areas that are not prone to natural disasters so it doesn’t feel as necessary to us as to those who are in higher risk areas.
During my studying, I ended up reading two articles about hospitals that recounted stories of Hurricane Katrina and how they each handled the storm. In both cases they saved the lives of their patients and staff by being prepared.
One article started by telling about going through the original readiness drill for Katrina when they knew the hurricane was coming but had no idea how large an impact it would have.
In both stories the hospitals had recovery plans that were in place and executed so well that even when the hurricane became something no one could have imagined, their patients, workers and families were safe.
As an animal lover I was touched by the one hospital that made arrangements for families and their pets to have a place in the hospital to sit through the storm by being prepared with makeshift facilities for family members and kennels for pets.
A different hospital had to evacuate when the waters rose, something that they didn’t imagine would happen, but had such a good plan that when they had to move the patients up floors and ultimately to helicopters, they had what they needed with the patients’ records to hand to those transporting. The head of the hospital was the last one to leave the facility.
While reading these stories it made me feel very strongly that we should all take a few minutes to evaluate our disaster recovery plans. I know that most of us, thankfully will just know we are ready, but if indeed that disaster happens this readiness could save the lives of many.
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