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    EHRs should factor into practice continuity plans

    Most physicians have plans responding to computer system failures, but many don’t revisit those disaster recovery/business continuity plans with any regularity, health IT experts said.

    That’s a mistake.

    Certainly, the reliability of computer systems is much higher now than in past decades, but failures still happen – whether they stem from short-term power loss or lost Internet connections or from crippling malware attacks. And with more than 80% of physicians using computerized records, a downed electronic health record (EHR) system for whatever the reason could stop a practice cold in its tracks.

    As a result, “it is really incumbent on small physician practices to understand what it takes to keep the business running in case of a disaster,” said Michael McCoy, MD, chief executive officer of consulting firm Physician Technology Services Inc.

    Here are five points to survive an EHR outage:


    Have and revisit your plans.

    Devise a plan and revisit it on a regular schedule to ensure it adequately addresses the latest additions and updates to your EHR application as well as the ancillary computer systems that connect to it, McCoy said, adding that it’s worthwhile to work with a consultant who specializes in disaster recovery and business continuity planning.


    Practice those plans.

    Diligent doctors might think they’re in good shape simply because they have a disaster recovery plan and are following pre-emptive steps, such as backing up EHR files to tape. But medical offices that suffer a real outage often find they’re not able to cope due to lack of practical experience and/or problems in their plans, McCoy said. Drills will not only give staff that practical experience it will reveal any flaws in the plan, such as corrupted backup files.

    Next: Work with your vendor


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