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Preparing for the Worst — Disaster Recovery and the Practice

An electrical outage is usually just an inconvenience. But if the power was down for an extended period in your community, would that impact your ability to keep your practice open?

Here's another question — in the aftermath of a disaster, cell-phone towers, computer networks and land based phone systems might not function. How would you communicate with your dental team and your patients in such an emergency?

The ADA has developed a process to guide dentists through the development of a business recovery plan. The process includes five steps to business survival and recovery:


The first step is a comprehensive evaluation including policies, lease agreements and materials management. Sample: If a catastrophe wiped out your dental practice, would your insurance policy cover all the remaining lease payments on your equipment? Or would you be faced with continuing to make payments on equipment you could no longer use?


The second step includes not just a written plan, but also tactics for communicating your plan and developing a network of support in a time of crisis. Sample: If you had to call on the local Red Cross, the Salvation Army or other volunteer group for help, would they know who you are? What do you know about them? Give them a call and take time to get acquainted.


The third step includes the actions to take when a threat is imminent. Sample: Remember, a disaster does not necessarily release you from HIPAA regulations. Do everything possible to preserve the confidentiality of patient records.


The fourth step outlines the steps necessary to take in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Sample: You may need substitute personnel until things return to normal. It's a good idea to know where you can find a reliable agency that will provide people with the skill levels you require.


The final step addresses the challenges of rebuilding. Sample: Disaster victims may perform well during the initial shock phases, but lose their energy levels after prolonged stress.

It is human nature to think of disasters as something that only happens to others. But developing and implementing a recovery plan can mitigate loss, save lives and assure your practice continues to function when it may be needed most.

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