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How to Recover Health Data After Disaster

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, July 7, 2011

"The national association's goal is, of course, to support those members though the good times and those bad times. And this spring has certainly been representative of some of those bad times,” Midwestern native Rose T. Dunn, AHIMA's interim chief executive officer, said in a phone interview.

News coverage of disasters often highlights hospitals that are impacted by storms and other natural disasters. But when it comes to data recovery, smaller healthcare organizations such as neighborhood clinics and physician offices can be hit just as hard--if not harder.

"Unfortunately, many of those types of smaller ambulatory centers are typically paper-based and so they have much more chance of having that material lost forever, especially with flooding," Dunn says.

And it's not just medical records that are at risk in small, paper-based organizations. "Not only have they lost all the health information for all those patients, if they've lost all of their computer systems and their files they have lost even all of the forms and everything that they would use to reopen," AHIMA board member Lynn Kuehn said in an interview.

Further complicating data recovery after disasters is the fact that health information professionals often work outside of the clinical setting. 

"Much of the non-patient care teams in healthcare facilities today do work remotely," Kuehn "So those individuals--coding professionals, transcription professionals, those who perform cancer registry operations and activities of those sort--are all done remotely today for the most part. So those individuals, when they lose their homes … those computers are toast. Folks need to be able to replace that technology in order to get back to work."

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