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Disaster Planning and Health Information Management


Both natural and man-made disasters can have a harmful impact on long-term facilities’ ability to continue everyday business operations. In the past, due to the absence of an adequate disaster plan, our healthcare facility lost all health information, which became a serious challenge. This paper discusses promising measures and practices to help the organization to avoid similar situations in case of future disastrous events.

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Disaster Planning Recommendations

To reduce the risks of challenges related to health information in case of subsequent disasters, it is of utmost importance to analyze the available resources and health data risks and use this information to improve our organization’s reaction to unexpected events. To begin with, the development of a complex contingency plan is absolutely necessary to enable the organization to respond to a wide range of emergencies. The implementation of risk assessment tools is a recommended measure that can increase our awareness of potential threats to the safety of health information.

For instance, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (2019) has developed a comprehensive risk assessment tool for healthcare organizations. Another recommended practice is the implementation of the Safety Assurance Factors for EHR Resilience Guides by ONC (Sittig & Singh, 2017; Staggers et al., 2016). In particular, there are guidelines for contingency planning that describe practices to reduce the risks of losing EHR data.

Considering the negative experiences of the past, one of the key priorities is to research the ways to restore access to health information. The most important task is to develop contingency plans for diverse threats to distribute responsibilities and specify data recovery procedures to be followed. As per the recommendation by the American Health Information Management Association (2014), to prevent data loss more effectively, organizations should produce individual contingency plans for specific threats (fire, flood, power grid failure, explosions, etc.). With that in mind, further steps to be taken by our facility include self-assessment practices and following contingency planning guidelines provided by credible organizations.

Apart from following the recommendations presented above, our organization should recognize the need for proper business continuity plans and develop them to make sure that healthcare practitioners will be able to continue serving patients. The most recent disaster left our facility without access to health information, thus seriously challenging staff members’ ability to provide safe services and avoid medication mistakes. To reduce similar threats in the future, it is practical to design and implement EHR backup plans as soon as possible.

For instance, we may need to store backup copies of patients’ health records to be able to access patient information even when the EHR system is damaged or cannot be used for different reasons. However, selecting and testing the best data backup solutions for health information is not enough for successful disaster planning. Staff members’ preparedness for disasters is an additional priority (Pierce et al., 2017). Basically, all care providers are to receive adequate and in-depth education on how to use data backup solutions in different situations and keep all data secure.


To sum up, to improve the disaster preparedness of the facility, it is critical to analyze the available resources and come up with contingency plans for diverse threats and business continuity plans. Some helpful measures include identifying risks related to current health information management practices with the help of self-assessment tools, such as SAFER and SRA. Additionally, the development of data backup plans and staff education can reduce the threat of subsequent data losses.

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American Health Information Management Association. (2014). AHIMA’s long-term care health information practice and documentation guidelines. Web.

Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (2019). Security Risk Assessment tool. Web.

Pierce, J. R., Morley, S. K., West, T. A., Pentecost, P., Upton, L. A., & Banks, L. (2017). Improving long-term care facility disaster preparedness and response: A literature review. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 11(1), 140-149.

Sittig, D. F., & Singh, H. (2017). Toward more proactive approaches to safety in the electronic health record era. Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, 43(10), 540-547.

Staggers, N., Elias, B., Makar, E., Hunt, J., & Alexander, G. L. (2016). Identifying and addressing critical usability issues to strengthen nurses’ interactions with health IT. In International Conference on Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 204-213). Springer, Cham.

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