Preparing your Practice for Future Emergencies
No one ever likes to think about it. But all of a sudden, it happens: an unforeseen, unpredictable, unexpected emergency. If nothing else, 2020 was the year and start of a new decade that ushered in natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the importance of emergency preparedness to the front and center of every business, regardless of size or industry. Perhaps we’ll never have a repeat of the series of disasters that happened in 2020. But who can really tell for sure? And could your business survive another disaster, be it a national health emergency, wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, a cybersecurity attack, or terrorism?
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), it is estimated that 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen following a disaster. It’s a big number that can’t be ignored. While it’s obvious you cannot predict every potential future crisis, you can mitigate your risk with planning. Make it part of your New Years’ resolution to develop an emergency preparedness plan for your practice. Here are some tips to get you started:
Notification plan – determine how you will notify your employees, patients, vendors and other stakeholders in the event of an emergency. For your employees, keep a current Emergency Contact List not just in the office, but also in a secure, offsite location, with complete contact information including work, home and cell phone numbers, work and personal email addresses and family/nearest relative contact information. For patients, vendors and other stakeholders, maintaining current contact information is imperative to keep everyone notified and updated.
Evacuation plan – in the event of a disaster, develop a plan to safely evacuate your employees and patients. Key items in your plan should include emergency building escape routes, an emergency alarm system with a distinctive sound, and procedures for assisting employees or patients with disabilities or who do not speak English. The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a downloadable resource on how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations.
Documents – Know where your important documents are located including insurance policies, contracts, patient records and employee records. Consider scanning your documents and storing them securely in the cloud.
Supply chain – review your current list of suppliers and any agreements you have with them. As many healthcare businesses experienced during COVID-19, there were disruptions to the supply chain for PPE, disinfectant, and other daily supplies. Develop a list of alternative suppliers in case your normal supplier is unable to provide service to you.
Technology – Patient data, billing and financial data, employee data, and business data are all at risk during an emergency – not to mention that hackers take full advantage of these opportunities to steal sensitive health data. This includes servers, networks, computers, data and connectivity. Be sure that your technology equipment is up-to-date, secure, and the data is backed-up regularly. Microsoft has a downloadable guide with tips and guidance on disaster preparedness and technology.
Insurance coverage – regularly review your business insurance coverage to see if there are any exclusions due to COVID-19 or other disasters. Be sure that you have adequate coverage if there’s a disruption to your business, as well as costs to repair or replace damaged equipment or buildings.
Keep a list of resources – depending on the type of emergency, there are several resources that may be able to help your business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a list of emergency resources for a variety of situations including how to apply for financial and disaster assistance loans, checklists for several disaster topics, and local counseling services to help with determining the best way to prepare for emergencies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a library of information on emergency preparedness and response.
The Ready Business Program from Ready.gov has several toolkits and other resources to help with emergency preparedness including earthquakes, hurricane emergencies, and power outages.
The American Red Cross provides a Ready Rating Assessment program with a 123-question assessment to help businesses identify potential gaps in emergency preparedness procedures.
No one likes to think about emergencies and disasters, but it’s an essential part of running your practice. Developing an emergency preparedness plan is the first step towards mitigating risk if something unexpected happens. Review you plan regularly, and make changes to it if necessary. Be sure to conduct routine training sessions with your employees and do a quarterly review of your insurance coverages.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc, the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.