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OIG: Disaster planning lacking among long-term care facilities

May 14, 2012
Uncategorized By LW Consulting Inc.

Natural disasters spare no victims, not even society's most vulnerable members living in long-term healthcare facilities. Given a new government report into disaster preparedness among nursing homes, a long-term care consultant may become much more valuable to these facilities in the coming years.

Of the 24 facilities studied by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) from 2007 to 2010, 22 could not detail a plan for managing the medical records of patients during a disaster, while all but seven facilities had difficulties responding to an incident.

One facility that was recently able to avert a loss of life due to a disaster was the Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Arlington, Texas. According to The New York Times, a tornado struck the facility last month, but due to careful planning, all residents and staff survived the incident.

"This event vividly illustrates why it's so critical that nursing homes have well-trained staff and updated and detailed emergency procedures in place," Allison Lowery, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services' spokeswoman, told The New York Times. "It quite literally saves lives."

The OIG report calls on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make proper disaster planning a federal requirement, as opposed to recommendations that currently exist. Facilities that do not have adequate plans may soon need to reassess their disaster processes.

In the face of an emergency, electronic medical records and other health IT tools are far more likely to survive an incident than their paper predecessors would have been. Since information is stored digitally - either on site or in a cloud location - medical professionals will be able to access the information soon after they begin to assess damages and rebuild.

This is why a healthcare IT consulting service can be so valuable. While disaster plans will surely save lives, effective planning when it comes to salvaging information can be just as critical for other reasons.