Data loss is the most common business disaster. Because your patients are counting on you, dealing with this problem in a dental practice is even more vital. To maintain continuity of day-to-day operations, it’s essential to have a solution in place that will get you up and running effectively with little or no loss of data.
Data storage requirements for dentistry
Dental records can be digital or in hard copy form. They include patient medical and dental history; oral pathology records; radiographs; dental and periodontal charting; diagnoses; treatment plans; consent statements or confirmations; study models, casts, medication records, laboratory reports; practitioner notes; billing and payment records; appointment records and treatment recommendations.
In today’s practices, most dental groups keep appointment and billing records in a computer system. In this way, critical elements of their operations rely on digital data and digital storage to function. Many dental healthcare practices use digital health records to store, reference and update patient dental records as well. In fact, most dental imaging records are now digital, too.
Imagine what would happen if your computer system failed and you could no longer access dental health records, billing records and appointment information. Without a backup and recovery plan, chaos would surely ensue.
Any effective recovery method must permit you to easily recover your files when you need them. Continuous backup will give you the ability to save all or nearly all of your data no matter when your system goes down. There are cloud-based continuous backup services, but these are not likely to be HIPAA compliant. Automated remote backup provides maximum security against hardware failure, virus attacks and physical destruction. HIPAA compliant continuous data backup services are available.
You can also implement continuous data backup on a dedicated hard drive by running software in the background of your computer with little impact on the performance of your processes. This can provide you with much of the protection of an offsite system or service, though you will not be protected from physical damage at your site.
When your computer system is down due to power failures, it also helps to have a backup generator. Many of the severe hurricanes we have had in the last decade resulted in numerous power failures, which can easily be prevented with energy from alternate sources.
Disaster recovery for dental healthcare practitioners
When most businesses have a disaster with business data, they have the concern of reloading backup data on existing or possibly new hardware. As long as their data can be recoverable within a reasonable period of time, they can continue essential computer-based operations with little interruption.
Dental practitioners must also protect patient privacy under the HIPAA. These privacy requirements pertain to patient information records, patient health records and patient billing records. When dental practitioners back up records at their facility, they can maintain patient privacy easily, because their server and storage devices are under their control and accessible only by authorized staff.
For dentists to completely recover their operations after a disaster affecting their computer operations, they must follow a backup recovery plan that they have fully tested.
Disaster recovery plan
The HIPAA Security rule requires that covered entities have a written contingency plan for handling system emergencies, including a detailed plan covering the data backup and recovery process in the event of a disaster. You may want to consider hiring an expert when making your plan. When you acknowledge how much is at stake, you may see what a wise investment this is. Your disaster recovery plan should contain the following elements:
- Data recovery requires that you be familiar with all your data, not just that on your server(s).
- Determine what the roles of staff members are in maintaining backups.
- Your data backup plan should be detailed together with hardware, software and services you plan on using. Continuous backup is advisable to ensure the integrity of your operations. Backup of up-to-the-minute operational data will help you recover from almost any data disaster.
- Data recovery software is likely to be necessary to restore data lost due to hard drive failure.
- You may use onsite or offsite backup, but onsite backup will not protect you from onsite destruction/loss. When you choose to use an external service, make certain it’s reliable and meets HIPAA requirements.
- Plan for operation at another location.
- Plan for equipment rental and repair.
- Maintain emergency contact information on the cloud.
Latest posts by Anne Matthews (see all)
- Data Storage and Recovery Concerns Dental Practices Need to Know About - November 26, 2013
Last modified: April 9, 2014