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Why your practice needs an internet contingency plan

Article

Doctors and staff should know how to respond if internet goes down for prolonged periods

"No connection" displayed on laptop with person holding cellphone ©Pixel-Shot-stock.adobe.com

©Pixel-Shot-stock.adobe.com

Technology plays a vital role in health care, and it’s impossible to talk about its benefits without touting the fantastic things that can be done digitally for your practice. With an increasing reliance on the internet and its benefits, health care providers must pay close attention to the functionality of their internet to stay effective and deliver quality care.

Internet downtime could affect your practice monumentally, and without an internet contingency plan, you’re leaving your practice susceptible to an array of challenges.

What is an internet contingency plan?

First, it's necessary to define a contingency plan. Put simply, it’s the steps your practice should take to deal with an adverse situation such as a power outage, website downtime, or any other issue that could affect your operations and services. This could be offering services offline, having a backup provider, or providing your staff with customer service training to handle disgruntled patients.

Here are the top three reasons you may need a contingency plan:

Ensuring uninterrupted patient care and safety

According to a recent study, 67% of patients prefer online booking, with many booking after hours. Even if this hasn't been implemented fully into your clinic, some patients may choose only to use the online method. Your clinic will likely have internet exposure, with the more successful clinics offering larger booking platforms.

Without a contingency plan, there will undoubtedly be a disruption or delay in patients’ diagnoses, care coordination, treatment, and care options. An internet contingency plan helps to avoid these issues that could hinder your staff’s ability to access critical information and collaborate.

Establishing failover solutions, hotspots, and local servers can help minimize the problems resulting from an unexpected influx of manual appointment settings and call-ins.

Safeguarding data security and privacy

Internet downtime is much more than just a hassle. Your patients may be angry, but there is minimal potential exposure from a cyberattack. Your patients’ information is highly confidential, especially regarding their health care. You’re at a greater risk of being subject to malicious actors during internet or server downtime.

An internet contingency plan should outline what happens when your site is hacked or compromised. Security protocols, such as offline backup systems, secure channels of communication, and even encryption protocols, should be included.

Communicating a contingency plan to your team and patients will increase their confidence in your practice and appointment systems.

Minimizing financial losses and operational disruptions

Although online appointment setting makes it much easier to generate revenue, it also leaves you open to financial losses and operational disruptions. Your patients prefer the ease of a quick method to schedule their next visit but may not like to do so on the phone. In this case, they may not wish even to call your office to make an appointment.

Your team may also be unable to carry out proper operational conduct that would contribute to your revenue generation. For example, insurance claims, processing, and billing are primarily made on your internal systems, which will be severely affected.

A backup contingency plan and disaster recovery can enable your practice to function seamlessly and efficiently while keeping your revenue streams intact during difficult times.

Be prepared, plan ahead

If you haven't done so yet, sit down with your team and prepare a contingency plan for internet downtime and unusable uptime. This may take some time, but consider it an insurance policy and protocol so everyone is on the same page and acts accordingly.

Once you have a proper contingency plan, everyone will have the confidence necessary to face the challenges posed by internet downtime. This ensures that your operations, revenue streams, customer service, and security are relevant and competitive.

Greg Davis is CEO of Bigleaf Networks, a leading provider of network optimization solutions.

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