South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday September 17, 2019
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June 2008 - Volume 4 - Issue 12

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Hurricane Preparation for Healthcare Professionals

Every healthcare practice in Florida should have a hurricane preparation plan. The plan does not necessarily have to be extensive, but should consider the most likely storm scenarios. To create the plan, an assessment of potential risks should be conducted. The plan is then developed based upon the assessment. The plan should be prepared before a storm threatens since time and resources will be limited as a storm approaches.

The hurricane preparation plan serves as a blueprint detailing what steps should be taken when a hurricane risk is eminent. Staff members should be familiar with the plan before a crisis arises. As every practice is different, hurricane plans will vary by practice. The following ideas should be incorporated into the hurricane plan:

  • Determine which staff members can reasonably be expected to be available to carry out hurricane preparations. Some employees may need to assist their own families and may be not available to prepare the practice for the storm. This should not come as a surprise and should be anticipated.
  • Patient medical charts should be stored in secure cabinets. The practice must protect the charts as they contain vital patient care information and represent a valuable operating asset of the medical practice.
  • Back up computer records and store the backup off site. Backing up the computer is critical as the practice’s accounts receivable data is likely stored there. A loss of the accounts receivable data could be costly as it may be difficult, if not impossible to recreate the records and the receivables could be lost.
  • Move the computer server to high ground. If the server is stored on the floor, move it to a higher spot as a precaution against flooding. Also consider moving the server to a safe location such as a well-protected interior room.
  • Determine how to contact employees if phone lines are inaccessible. Compile a list of home phone numbers, e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers for all staff members. Consider setting up a telephone number with a message that will be regularly updated to inform employees of the status of company operations following a storm.
  • Develop a telephone message informing patients why the practice has temporarily shut down, who they should call for medical emergencies and further contact information.
After a storm, the practice may be closed for a week or more until disruption issues have been resolved. Management should consider the length of time the practice can survive before its finances are significantly depleted. Covering overhead costs and paying employees for an extended period of time may not be possible if cash flow interruptions occur.

The importance of having sufficient insurance coverage cannot be overemphasized. Evaluate what the current insurance covers and make sure catastrophic events are covered. Basic insurance may not cover events like floods and other so-called "acts of nature," so coverage may have to be expanded. Consider adding business interruption coverage, which reimburses the practice for revenue lost during the time the practice is unable to function.

Preparing for hurricanes is complicated, expensive and time consuming. Unfortunately, the number and intensity of storms seems to be increasing and it should be assumed that hurricanes or other natural disasters will affect most health care practices in Florida. The best advice is to begin crafting an appropriate hurricane response plan so you are ready to react quickly when a storm threatens.

Jeffrey B. Kramer, CPA is a shareholder of the firm Kramer Weisman and Associates LLP. He provides audit, consulting and tax services to medical practices and other businesses in the health care industry and can be reached at jeff@kwacpa.com or (954) 475-1260.
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