It’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight or to be an onlooker as history is made and being broadcast on every channel imaginable. Our nation has become a collective media-junkie, tuning into multiple social media platforms at an average rate of two hours per day. We watch in rapt fascination as natural destruction occurs, and we wait to see the aftermath, gobbling up pictures of damage like candy on Halloween.
While watching long lines of cars on the interstate desperate to evacuate and waves pounding against piers and buildings until they collapse can trigger a variety of emotions, for those not directly impacted by Hurricane Matthew, there is another lesson to be learned from the storm. It’s never too soon to plan.
It’s easy to forget about business continuity planning when you’re just starting out; there are so many other more important things to focus on during the hectic months of opening. Let’s face it; no one wants to think about planning for a disaster when you’re just getting the business started. Then operations take over and months turn into years, complacency sets in and planning just becomes easier to put on the back burner because there’s expansion to consider or maybe it’s the idea that “it has never happened, so why worry?”
Sure, statistically speaking, the chance of a tornado or a hurricane, even a fire or another disruption to your urgent care business is infinitely low, but the old adage is certainly true: those who fail to plan; plan to fail.
So, what can you do to help put your urgent care in the best possible position to resume business should an emergency occur? Create a Disaster Recovery Plan. This type of plan is not difficult to establish. It simply requires a little forward-thinking on your part. If you need help jumpstarting the planning process, there are dozens of templates online you can utilize.
What do you need to consider? Begin with an assessment of your facility. What sorts of disasters might happen? What could be easily protected or moved in the case of an imminent threat? Is it possible to relocate either before or after the threat passes so you can continue operations? And if so, what would this entail? How long could you operate at an offsite location? What impact would it have on billing claims, your patient population, or availability of staff? Can you shift your equipment and inventory or can extra/backup supplies be brought in?
Consider your staff. If called to evacuate, could you (or should you) even try to remain open? Could your staff return to help you provide regular services, assuming the facility was functional? Would you have a method to reach available staff? Will they have suffered any damage as a result of the disaster that might impair their ability to work?
Now think about your resources such as finances, supplies, and other materials or services, even utilities. In the event of a natural disaster, will access to these be compromised? Have you put into place any backups in case of long-term delays? Something as simple as arranging for a generator or selecting a vendor who might provide lights could help keep you in operations when others are not. Coordinating with service providers before an emergency could be the difference of having continuous supply lines in the aftermath.
Don’t forget your finances. Perhaps, if your billing is outsourced there will be no problem with money coming in; but what about claims being processed going out? Will you still be able to document as usual and collect all pertinent insurance information? Will you have access to funds either as credit or cash to make necessary purchases or even payroll? You may want to consider keeping some funds in a safe, secure place to cover operations should you need to function following a disaster.
Finally, in the event a hurricane or tornado occurs and your urgent care is fortunate enough to escape any damage, how will you let potential patients and the community know that you are open? Do you have a plan in place to coordinate your service availability with local media? Can you update your social media accounts? Can you work in conjunction with local, state, and federal authorities, and if so, what impact might that have on claims, revenue, and resources?
There’s something else to consider when developing a Disaster Recovery Plan. What do you do when your business no longer exists? Sometimes you have to face the hard facts because it happens. You have to think about what options you might have if your facility is damaged beyond repair or if your equipment and supplies are destroyed and lost. It may be possible that trying to get back up and running is simply not feasible. In this instance, determining if you want to rebuild might be the only available choice. This is when having complete and updated lists of inventory/assets will be invaluable so that you can promptly begin the insurance process.
Recovery, in this instance, may be long and will have a much greater financial impact not only on the business but also to your staff. If you do live in a higher risk area for natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornados, or hurricanes, you might consider extra coverage in your business insurance to compensate should the situation occur.
Just remember, it doesn’t take situations like Hurricane Matthew to disrupt your operations. Let’s not forget the terrible flash flood that took place in Louisiana just a couple of months ago. Or, for our friends out west, wildfires can always be a risk. Even something as commonplace as a fire in the business next door can cause enough smoke and water damage to impact your operations for a significant period of time.
While no one ever wants to endure a natural disaster, recovering from one may depend on the amount of preparation you put into it. Making sure that you have well-documented lists, resources, and whatever assets possible secured and in a safe place that you can access after the All Clear can help you be ready to get back in business sooner.
If you’d like more help creating your own Disaster Recovery Plan check out this federal resource or let us, DocuTAP Consulting Services, help assess your risk and put a well-developed plan into action.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patrice Pash, DocuTAP’s Director of Consulting Services, has been in the urgent care industry for nearly 20 years. Under her direction, more than 150 clinics have opened nationwide. Patrice’s vast experience and in-depth knowledge with EMRs, and the industry in general, helps guide the DocuTAP team today.