By Shomari Williams. Associate Director, Business Sales, Verizon Wireless
Natural disasters can happen, anywhere, anytime and often with little warning. Whether it’s a hurricane from the Gulf Coast, flooding in the streets of Houston, tornados or even damaging winds, these events can cause loss of life and significantly impact our daily lives. For the medical field and physician community, sustaining operations and remaining connected in times of a crisis is vital.
The good news is that advances in technology are continuing to improve healthcare processes and create a more efficient environment for patients, physicians, staff and administration. From expediting patient check-in and eliminating wait times to making healthcare more accessible in rural areas, trends in technological developments in the future promise exciting opportunities and more effective care. Consequently, as tech savvy medical practices become increasingly the norm, physicians must evaluate their existing network infrastructure to make certain their operations are ready for potential threats and disasters.
Planning and preparedness are the best defenses against any emergency situation. The following are critical factors and initiatives for physicians to consider when developing a plan and to ensure business continuity in preparation for, during and after natural disasters:
Identify critical business functions, systems and risks from a technological standpoint. If a natural disaster was to cause major power outages and disrupt service, would your business be able to accept, diagnose and treat patients? What about patient data, records and insurance stored electronically on a server? As healthcare practices today increasingly utilize technology and equipment to run their operations smoothly, it’s vital to assess which business functions and electronic systems are most at risk during and after a disaster. Have a conversation with all of your technology partners to ensure they have a trained team that will work with you to identify potential shortcomings across all business functions.
Implement strategies to minimize the risk of disruption. Following the initial assessment, develop a plan and strategy that will work to resolve potential interruptions caused by severe weather. One way customers can do this is to invest in redundancy to maintain reliable access to essential databases and applications. Wireless Back Up is a solution will allow a seamless, automatic switch over from primary internet access to the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network in the event of a loss of connectivity with your regular internet provider. This extra layer of redundancy can provide invaluable peace of mind.
Develop a plan to recover operations. Service restoration strategies should be an integral part of all your technology partners’ operations. When you do not have access to data or the network, it can be a matter of life or death for your patients. Expediting the restoration of service to you should be one of their highest priorities given the integral role physicals and the medical communities serve during a disaster.
Test the plan to validate response capabilities. An effective emergency preparedness plan and concerted response are critical in successfully weathering a natural disaster and there is no better way to maintain a level of preparedness than to practice for a natural disaster and technological disruption. Conduct a “crisis training drill” to practice steps in the plan and audit potential shortcomings in the process. Our company’s “Crisis Management Team” even conducts annual exercises in an effort to continually improve response capabilities and processes so we can help our healthcare partners recover from the impact of severe weather as quickly as possible.