Katrina's lesson: It pays to prepare

October 21, 2005

The best time to respond to a disaster is before it happens. There are steps you can take now to prepare your dermatology practice for a crisis.

Although most of us were unable to provide direct assistance during this disaster, we can undoubtedly draw a lesson from it. A hurricane is not the only crisis for which doctors need to be prepared. Other natural disasters, such as earthquakes and floods, as well as human disasters, such as violence and terrorism, can impact your dermatology practice.

The best time to respond to a disaster is before it happens. There are steps you can take now to prepare your dermatology practice for a crisis.

Review your insurance coverage carefully, and meet with your agent annually to review and possibly update your policies. Depending on your geographic location, you'll want to review your coverage as it pertains to natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes.

In addition to flood, earth movement and wind damage riders, you'll want to evaluate your policy as it relates to your business. This includes business interruption insurance, which covers your loss during an emergency, as well as insurance for replacing or repairing equipment and your building. Consider accounts receivable and valuable papers coverage, as well as income destruction insurance.

Inventory your assets, and update the inventory if new equipment or furniture is purchased. Make an annual photographic or video inventory of your equipment, furniture and other practice tangible assets. Store one copy of the images or tape off site.

The U.S. Small Business Administration offers federal assistance for small businesses following a declared disaster. For more information, visit the agency's Web site at http://www.sba.gov/disaster_recov/index.html.

Evaluate your information systems. Surge-protect all of your computers as a preventive measure. If your computers are destroyed during a disaster, discuss your options, if any, with your electronic medical record and practice management system vendors.

If you have a warning, hopefully, you'll have time to make a backup. For this reason alone, it's a wise idea to back up your systems every night and take the tape home with you. Better yet, move to on-line daily or even hourly backup, available to practices with high-speed Internet connections. If you don't, talk to your vendors about next steps.