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When disaster strikes… – Claus Oustrup

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  Posted by: The Probe      6th February 2019

The consequences of accidents such as fires and water leakages in dental practices can be far-reaching, especially when patient records are affected on top of any damage done to the property. As such, it’s a good idea for professionals to protect themselves against the worst case scenario as much as possible in order to help rebuild quickly if disaster should ever strike.

 

Fires in the workplace

We all know that fire safety is important within healthcare settings, but are you aware of how often fires can occur? One study found that although estimates vary as to how many fires occur in practices per year, the number usually ranges between 20-100, and could even reach as high as 600 in large countries such as the USA.[i]Though similar statistics are unavailable for the UK, a quick online search quickly reveals that fires are still happening in dental practices across the nation.[ii],[iii]

Of course, these numbers will never be consistent, and fires in dental practices, like all fires, are by nature unpredictable and will cause varying levels of damage. However, it just goes to show that fire risks in the industry are still a threat that shouldn’t be ignored.

Protecting against fires should be a primary concern, and with the appropriate fire prevention training and measures in place, practices can significantly cut down the risks of fires occurring. Despite this however, fires can break out through no fault of the staff or anyone else within the practice, and so there is still a risk of computers or other equipment being destroyed and patient data lost.

 

Flooding

Accidents such as burst pipes or damage from lack of maintenance are another major worry, as these can be just as debilitating as fires to property and digital equipment. A recent case that occurred in Maldon, Essex showed precisely how destructive an incident of this type can be. Not only was the whole practice flooded overnight, but the excess water also destroyed the ceiling of the practice and ruined multiple patient records.[iv]Whilst some the paper records were recoverable, the computer system needed to be replaced, meaning that some of their digital records are likely to have been lost as well.

Shifting weather conditions and sudden changes between cold and warm conditions commonly cause pipes to burst, though the flooding can also be a consequence of old pipes bursting due to lack of proper maintenance. Therefore, it’s important to regularly evaluate the plumbing throughout the premises in order to check its current condition and replace worn parts if necessary.

Flooding from rivers is another major concern in many parts of the UK. Plenty of UK property, including dental practices, is situated in flood plains near rivers, and these properties should also have appropriate protection in place to prevent patient records from being destroyed by rising waters. These can include simple measures such as sandbags around doors when flood risks are issued, to ensuring that patient records are safe and stored away from places water could reach.

 

Devastating consequences

The effects of accidents and disasters in the workplace should not be underestimated. Not only does physical property damage take time to repair, but during this time a practice will be unable to treat patients, interrupting their regular service and requiring patients to look elsewhere. Insurance will likely cover the extent of the physical damage, but what about patient records that have been destroyed or lost?

Although cyber security is an option, many practices may not have this insurance in place. Even if they do, this is rendered fairly ineffective if data is destroyed when on an electronic device, as this is not recoverable if computers are severely damaged in the incident. Furthermore, even with a pay out from these insurance companies the data will still be gone, and this could cause huge disruptions to the patient care your practice can provide.

 

What can you do?

The best way to ensure that patient data remains safe even beyond an unavoidable incident is to have a remote back-up system in place. By taking this protective measure, even if systems get destroyed or heavily damaged in an accident, the data will remain safe. This means that once your practice is on its feet again you will have all of the records you need to resume normal service.

PROPACS from PRO Diagnostics UK is a particularly good option for practices as it offers further benefits than just secure data back up. As it is a unique, cloud-based storage solution for patient images, PROPACS safeguards images even when systems are destroyed, and as the software is heavily encrypted the images remain safe from cyber threats too.

 

Be prepared

It’s impossible to predict when disaster will strike, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be ready for it. By protecting patient images using a cloud-based storage system, you can ensure that this sensitive information will be protected even in the event of a tragedy that destroys your physical practice systems.

 

For more information, please visit www.prodiagnostics.co.ukor email sales@prodiagnostics.co.uk

 

 

REFERENCES

 

[i]VanCleave, A., Jones, J., McGlothlin, J., Saxen, M., Sanders, B., Walker, L. Factors Involved in Dental Surgery Fires: A  Review of the Literature.

[ii]Plymouth Live. Plymouth Dental practice Forced to Close because of Major Fire. Link: https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/plymouth-news/plymouth-dental-practice-forced-close-276399[Last accessed September 18].

[iii]Daily Echo. Thornhill Dental Practice, on Warburton Road, Closed After Early Morning Fire. Link: https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/16199231.thornhill-dental-practice-on-warburton-road-closed-after-early-morning-fire/ [Last accessed September 18].

[iv]Maldon Standard. Dentist Will Feel the Effects of Burst Pipes for “Many Months”. Link: https://www.maldonandburnhamstandard.co.uk/news/16086973.Dentist_will_feel_effects_of_burst_pipe_for__many_months_/ [Last accessed September 18].


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