Is it possible to recover critical medical documents, such as patient records and x-rays damaged by fire, flood, or mold caused by excessive moisture? What steps are necessary to do so?
Recovering and restoring documents is possible.
The best results are linked to the speed at which appropriate action is taken. Depending on ambient conditions after a disaster, studies show that mold can begin to grow on water-damaged documents within 72 hours of exposure. Delay in stabilizing and addressing damaged documents also increases the cost of reclamation. More important, each day delayed is another day doctors, nurses, and other medical staff lack access to critical information required to treat their patients and perform administrative services.
Choosing a Document Restoration Vendor
Many restoration companies do not provide document reclamation services in-house, but choosing one that does will strengthen communication lines and lessen the burden of the facilities personnel overseeing the recovery effort.
Document Inventory and Removal
Documents should be inventoried, removed from the disaster zone, and stabilized by qualified professionals. Prior to the release of documents, it is important to ensure HIPAA compliance. The legal department should be able to readily produce a HIPAA partnership agreement for a principal officer of the document recovery firm to execute.
Removing documents from a healthcare facility, especially when damage and location are widespread, requires collaboration with the document custodians, strict attention to detail, and adequate labor to safely transport the documents out of the facility. Recording the location and order of documents ensures a proper chain of custody and enables an efficient reintegration of the documents once reclamation services are complete. Once removed, the inventoried boxes should be loaded onto a monitored freezer trailer.
The Document Reclamation Process
The two most common methods of document drying are vacuum freeze-drying and desiccant drying. Circumstances may also require that the documents be cleaned. This can include gamma irradiation to address biohazards and microbial growth.
X-rays, patient charts, and personnel records are the veins through which the knowledge and vitality of a medical facility flow. Knowing in advance how to secure qualified professional assistance with document reclamation, as part of the complete recovery effort will save time, money, and perhaps lives. Health facility manages should ensure that document recovery is included in their emergency preparedness plans in order to avoid significant loss of business continuity and escalating costs.