Can you recover from a worst case scenario?

Does a power failure keep you awake at night?
Are you fretting about a loss of power to your network?
Are you worried that you’ll lose vital information if your computer malfunctions?

If these questions sound familiar you’re not alone. Worry about the integrity of the systems used to run your practice – computers, networks, electronic devices or other technology in your office – is common. However, your worries can be mitigated with a tested, secure back-up system in place to prevent loss of data. You have one, right?

No? Then we encourage you to read on for tips on how to put together a backup solution for your office.

Tip 1 – Get a UPS for each computer

No, not an account with United Parcel Service. Instead, invest in an Uninterruptable Power Supply for each computer in your office. Usually shaped like an overgrown extension cord, UPS devices allow the user enough time to properly power down a computer in the event of a loss of main power. Most devices also function as surge protector, keeping a steady flow of electricity to the computer and minimizing the chance of loss due to power surges.

While a UPS will protect your computer in the event of power loss, they won’t protect you from basic machine failure, which leads us to tip number 2…

Tip 2 – Backup your important files

Patient files. Financial records. Correspondence. If it’s important to you and/or your practice and is stored on a computer, it should be backed up. At its most basic, a backup is simply a duplicate copy of a file that resides separate from the original – it could be on a CD stored in a cabinet, on an external storage device such as a flash drive or external hard drive, or in the cloud (a network of servers used to store data that are usually geographically separate from your location). The three basic items that need to be considered for your backup process are what, how, and where to backup.

  • What: If your office or practice could not function without the information, it needs to be backed up. Additionally, if the information is not in use now, but could be useful in the future or must be retained for tax or other legal purposes, back it up.
  • How: Backup methods run the gamut from manually copying files to a storage device to using software that automates the backup process for you. For more on software to automate your backup process, check out this March 2016 PCmag.com review of four backup software packages.
  • Where: There are many options for where your backup information can reside. Two of the most popular are external hard drives and the cloud. There are pro’s and con’s for each location depending on whether you need to carry the backup with you, speed of internet access to upload/download backups, ongoing cost, and more. Only you can make the right choice for your business. Google “cloud vs onsite back-up” for more information or visit this com Small Business Hub article for more info.

Tip 3 – Save your data with compliance in mind

Whatever backup method and storage location chosen, you must ensure that it is HIPAA-compliant. If you’ve chosen a software that backs up to the cloud, have you confirmed that that data is encrypted and the encryption is HIPAA-compliant? Do you have a Business Associate Agreement with the vendor you’ve chosen? If you’re using a local storage device, is it encrypted and password-protected? Is it stored in a physical location that in accessible only to the appropriate personnel?

HealthIT.gov, the national website devoted to information technology in healthcare, has published an information-packed booklet entitled Privacy and Security of Electronic Health Information. Download it for more information on understanding your role in keeping your patient’s data secure.

While CHP does not endorse any particular method for the backup of your important files, we do encourage all providers to have a backup plan in place and test it regularly, because, in the immortal words of Winston Churchill “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.”