While physicians and their medical facilities can plan ahead for major transitions, such as the implementation of new medical billing software or the integration of electronic medical records in the workplace, there are unexpected events that require additional preparations. For example, when Hurricane Irene made its way up the east coast, IT managers in local facilities had the chance to put their existing disaster recovery initiatives to the test.
Even though most hospitals were able to weather the incident, in Connecticut, one facility lost power and needed to relocate patients. Similarly, in Staten Island, New York, a hospital's IT department shut down its applications, computer network and phone systems for a brief period, InformationWeek reports. As a result, EMR software wasn't at the ready for doctors to make big decisions regarding patient care.
"When we do have these natural disasters it either confirms the strategy, the plan, the dollars spent and the resources that have already been invested by the healthcare organization's disaster recovery strategy, or it provides the opportunity for the CIO to recognize the weaknesses in their existing disaster recovery plan and improve on it," Pam Matthews, senior director of regional affairs at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, told the news source.
Even if a facility wasn't affected by the hurricane, experts say operations management personell should use this time to analyze the effectiveness of their plans and work on ways to improve them for future natural disasters. Matthews told the news source that small healthcare facilities should consider securing a second data storage center so that these records can be kept safe during difficult times.