Hurricane Michael is projected to make landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States impacting the Florida Panhandle and Alabama. As it moves inland, Michael will likely bring heavy rain and strong winds to other parts of the southeastern United States, potentially impacting Georgia and South Carolina. This event will present significant challenges to physicians and healthcare entities in the affected areas. We’ve collected references and strategies for preparing for the possibility of hurricane and flood-related issues that physicians, dentists and healthcare entities are expected to encounter, including possible responses in the event of damage to medical records.
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 Michael. 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 meantime:
The National Archives and Records Administration and DriveSavers Data recovery make the following recommendations for managing water-damaged hard drives and devices:
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.drivesaversdatarecovery.com.
There are a number of vendors that remove flood water from business properties. Contact your general liability insurer in case it has a preferred contractor.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule is not suspended during a public health or other emergency. Last month, during Hurricane Florence, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released the following guidance for the appropriate sharing of medical information during a hurricane. Additional information may become available on the OCR website.
The following information may be helpful in preparing for requests received during or after a natural disaster or state of emergency:
If you cannot salvage the medical records or otherwise reconstruct them via electronic data recovery, you should re-create 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 and your recovery efforts, including:
If affected PHI is requested, include documentation of PHI damage and recovery efforts with your response to the PHI request.
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.