Creating a Disaster Data Recovery Plan

Amber Ratcliffe
folder with emergency plan written on it

Healthcare practices have increasingly moved toward storing electronic medical records in recent years, which has been hastened by federal programs that encourage switching from paper to electronic storage. Electronic databases have many benefits — but what happens when technological or weather disasters strike? Is your practice prepared?

In healthcare compliance, DRP is an abbreviation that stands for Disaster Recovery Plan. A disaster recovery plan is a document full of details regarding the processes to be followed when dealing with and mitigating the effects of an unplanned catastrophe. Depending on your organization, these unplanned incidents can include natural or physical disasters and technological disasters.

Here’s why you need a disaster recovery plan, what it should include, and how MedTrainer can help you achieve your goals.

Plan for Any Inevitability

When it comes to healthcare facilities, the term “disaster” has far-reaching denotations. There are many types of workplace disasters that can occur, and each needs a plan for if and when action is required. Examples include:

  • Natural disasters: These include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and other natural phenomena that can cause significant damage to workplaces.
  • Technological disasters: These can include explosions, fires, chemical spills, and other incidents that result from the use of equipment or hazardous materials in the workplace.
  • Human-caused disasters: These include workplace violence, terrorist attacks, and other intentional or unintentional acts that cause harm to people or property.
  • Power outages: These result from a variety of causes, including natural disasters, equipment failures, or other issues, and can cause significant disruptions to workplaces.
  • Cybersecurity breaches: These include hacking, phishing, and other forms of cyberattacks that compromise sensitive data and disrupt workplace operations.

Why Do You Need a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Disaster recovery plans ensure that records are preserved and accessible even after natural or technological disasters. From hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes to cyberattacks and system failures, your disaster recovery plan can help by:

  • Minimizing the amount of damage and disruption
  • Minimizing disaster-related costs
  • Creating secondary means of operation in the case of emergency
  • Training employees on emergency procedures
  • Promoting a rapid recovery
  • Increasing productivity
  • Increased customer satisfaction

Furthermore, creating disaster recovery plans for electronic health records is mandatory for healthcare organizations to maintain compliance with the Health Insurance and Portability Act’s Privacy and Security Rules. This ensures the organization can still function if there’s electronic data loss, to recover all patient health information lost during the unexpected disaster and to resume normal operations as soon as possible.

Generally, your disaster recovery plan should focus on minimizing the amount of time it takes to recover the data in order to reduce the negative impact involved.

Key Components of a Disaster Data Recovery Plan

There are a few key components in every healthcare disaster data recovery plan, regardless of the type of healthcare practice:

  1. Mission-critical data and applications: “Mission-critical” data is data that’s most essential to your organization’s operation. It’s the first data you need to restore following a disaster to enable the practice to resume its normal processes. When you’re creating a disaster data recovery plan, the first step is to identify all of your mission-critical data and applications, then assign them the highest priority in your recovery plan. When a data loss event occurs, this should be the first data to be restored.
  2. Data backup: Next, you’ll need a data backup plan. This plan determines which medical data should be backed up and how long it’s stored. Your data backup plan must include sufficient secondary data storage capacity, and a schedule for preserving and backing up data. Mission-critical data should be the top backup priority, since it’s key to resuming normal operations.
  3. Recovery solutions: Once you have your data backup plan and have identified the most important data types, you’ll need to consider your secondary storage type and site. These could include physical data centers, which are stored in a different location than your primary data storage site. Or you can back up your data on virtual servers, which eliminates the need for physical storage. Virtual storage sites are typically managed by third-party service providers. Best of all, virtual storage is easily scalable, so it can grow along with your organization and storage needs.
  4. HIPAA compliance: As you know, HIPAA mandates that all personal medical information must be protected to ensure patient privacy. Your data recovery plan should include encryption for health records, along with other industry standard data protections. Not only is this key to protecting patient privacy, but violations can result in stiff penalties and other negative consequences.
  5. Key processes: Your disaster data recovery plan should also include information about key processes, including instructions, measures for restoring and rebuilding the system, application and inventory profiles, information on testing procedures, and a change log to record any changes to the system.
  6. Security risk assessment: Finally, your organization should perform periodic security risk assessments. By evaluating if and where security risks exist, you can protect your data — and patient privacy — before disaster strikes.

Always review and test your disaster recovery plans on a regular basis. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How MedTrainer Can Help You Create a Disaster Data Recovery Plan

MedTrainer can help your healthcare organization create and maintain your disaster data recovery plan. You’ll get learning courses for HIPAA and data security, which help you understand the key concepts and action items necessary to create a compliant plan.

Furthermore, MedTrainer’s compliance tools store your documents and policies in the cloud, so they’re always available — even during and after disasters. You can easily update these items and get electronic approval from your board and/or leadership. Finally, MedTrainer’s Security Risk Assessment tool can be used to assess your organization’s potential security risks.

MedTrainer is an all-in-one healthcare compliance software solution for learning, credentialing, compliance, and much more. Your organization can choose specific features and package your perfect custom solution. Schedule a demo with MedTrainer to learn more about how we make healthcare regulation compliance easy.


See how MedTrainer can help with emergency preparedness.