Plan to Safeguard Imaging Facilities

Plan to Safeguard Imaging Facilities

This piece was originally published in the September 2016 issue of electroindustry.

Ruth Tesar, CEO, Optimal Tracers and Northern California PET Imaging Center


It seems we hear about natural disasters in the United States on an almost daily basis: fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc., sometimes more than one at a time. Loss of power and utilities often accompanies the disaster, increasing the damage. So how can imaging facilities prepare?

First, and most important, have a plan.

Most people do not enjoy thinking about worst-case scenarios; however, it is imperative to have a plan to keep patients, staff, equipment, and data safe.

1. Identify an emergency plan administrator

The first step to creating a plan is to identify your emergency plan administrator. This person will be responsible for overseeing the development and evolution of the plan and running the emergency drills your facility should carry out. Under the plan administrator’s guidance, assess your current level of preparedness, starting with the most likely disasters in the area. Maybe you would not plan for tornadoes in California, but in Kansas or Oklahoma tornadoes should be high on the list.

Once you have identified disasters that you hope never occur, it’s time to determine how prepared you are for them. Review your facility’s plans for evacuation, fire procedures, transportation, security, facility closures, hazardous and radioactive materials, employee notifications, aid agreements (with other facilities or government agencies), and insurance policies.

During this review, it can be helpful to meet with local representatives of emergency services, first responders, utilities, and public works. They may have suggestions and are the partners you want.

2. Back up facility operations

Identify the critical products, services, and operations that will need additional backup. For instance, if you are operating in a level 1 trauma center, you are more likely to continue imaging patients than if you are a freestanding center.

As you perform this analysis, consider the failure of one or more critical services such as power, water, sewer, and telecommunications that are critical to your operation. Do you have backup in place, such as a generator, to ensure continuation of services? Where is the generator located? In the basement, which might flood? What about the equipment in your facility? Are safe shutdown procedures in place? Which items require backup power?

What about data systems? You want to ensure not only that you can continue to serve new patients but also that all data on previous patients are archived. Be sure that your data systems have backup that is physically located away from the original data, in case of flood or fire that could affect adjacent buildings or structures. Consideration should also be given to personnel information and accounting.

3. Consider cybersecurity

In this age of digital technology, planning for cyber threats is as important as ensuring physical security. As devices become increasingly connected to networks, security risks move beyond the systems to intrusions across digital networks. In a white paper on cybersecurity, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) advises, “Cybersecurity in medical imaging is a shared responsibility between healthcare providers and manufacturers. Imaging staff must be aware of cybersecurity threats and best-in-class practices. Processes must be defined and implemented, and the proper technology must support ultimate zero-breach cybersecurity goals.”[1]

Whether for cyber- or physical security, implementation will depend on your staff and its knowledge of the plan. In addition to top-executive support, employee buy-in is essential, so include staff as the plan is developed. Employees will be at the front line, so they should be crystal clear on when the plan is initiated, what their responsibilities are, and how they will be notified. Testing the plan through drills is essential. Revisiting the plan and performing additional drills should be undertaken on a yearly basis.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Being prepared will enable you to stay open if necessary, reduce potential damage to the facility and equipment, and allow you to get back up and running more quickly after the disaster has passed.

1 NEMA/MITA CSP 1-2016 Cybersecurity for Medical Imaging

Read the September 2016 issue of electroindustry.

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