Although Hurricane Harvey has been downgraded and has moved on, physicians and healthcare facilities in coastal Texas will be facing the repercussions for the foreseeable future. This document collects references and provides strategies for handling some of the flood-related issues physicians, dentists and healthcare facilities are expected to encounter.
Many healthcare facilities and physician offices will be trying to recover and restore water-damaged paper and electronic records over the next weeks and months in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Before investigating potential damage to medical records:
The best thing for wet records is to handle them as little as possible and keep them from molding. Mold starts to grow quickly — within two to three days — so it is important to take action as soon as possible. In the meanwhile:
There are many national and Texas document drying and restoration services. For example, POLYGON Group is a national company that specializes in emergency document drying and restoration services.
Companies that appear to be based in Texas include (there are a number of them):
The National Archives and Records Administration and DriveSavers Data recovery make the following recommendations for managing water-damaged hard drives and devices:
The Texas Medical Association (TMA) recommends using a data recovery service, such as DriveSavers, though the company is not a TMA-endorsed vendor. According to the Drivesavers website, free recovery service is available for victims of Hurricane Harvey. Because exposure to water and air cause corrosion on electronic circuitry, Harvey victims must contact DriveSavers and ship their device no later than September 15, 2017. There is a limit of one device per business or household. Customers needing additional recoveries, and those with multi-disk devices such as RAID, NAS and SAN devices, are eligible for a 50 percent discount off the regular service fees.
DriveSavers has a drop-off location in Houston at the American General Center, 2929 Allen Parkway, Suite 200. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.drivesaversdatarecovery.com.
While the HIPAA Privacy Rule is not suspended during a public health or other emergency, the Secretary of HHS has declared a public health emergency in Texas and exercised the authority to waive sanctions and penalties for certain HIPAA violations. The details are further discussed in the following documents:
There are numbers of vendors all over Texas that remove flood water from business properties. Contact your general liability insurer in case it has a preferred contractor.
If you cannot salvage the medical records or otherwise reconstruct them via electronic data recovery you should recreate them to the best of your ability. Approach the various other entities that are storing your patients’ PHI in their own databases and record-keeping systems. For example, pharmacies, consultants, prior treating physicians, third party insurers, transcription services and hospitals most likely have PHI they can provide. The following strategies can facilitate the reconstruction process:
Document the PHI record/data damage your recovery efforts, including:
If affected PHI is requested, include documentation of PHI damage and recovery efforts with your response to the PHI request.
Medicaid and Medicare providers who are subject to a Payment Error Rate Measurement (PERM) or a Comprehensive Error Rate Testing (CERT) review, may obtain time extensions from CMS if records are completely or partially destroyed due to a Hurricane Harvey. Details are further discussed in the following documents:
The information provided on this website is intended as risk management advice. It does not constitute a legal opinion, nor is it a substitute for legal advice. Legal inquiries about topics covered on this website should be directed to an attorney.
Reference herein to any specific product, process, service, or entity does not necessarily constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the NORCAL Group of companies.