Are you prepared to cope with the next disaster that comes along? Even when there is no loss of life, it can be very difficult for anyone to fully recover mentally and physically. Having electronic records and well thought out contingency plans could make a big difference in recovery. They help even in the best of times.
Imagine coming home from work one day and seeing what was left of your home surrounded by fire trucks and rescue workers. Or you smell gas and start through the front door just as the entire place explodes. Or there is a damaging storm, flood, forest fire, or earthquake. Every one of these things is not likely to happen to any single individual. However, over a person’s lifetime, probabilities add up, something serious could happen and we could lose everything. Some people are luckier than others. In addition, many people experience nuisances such as lost or stolen wallets, passports, credit cards or car keys at one time or another. These loses can happen away from home and in a foreign country. Although minor by comparison, until we get caught up in any situation, it can be difficult to understand their impact and realize the trouble and inconvenience they cause. It wastes a lot of time.
A woman in Missouri lamented as she stood in the ruins of her home. It had been rebuilt after being destroyed in an earlier storm only to happen again. She had just moved back in the week before. Someone else had a laptop stolen at a business conference and did not have their files backed up. Between Acts of God, carelessness and deliberate acts, many disruptive things happen. Imagine the bureaucratic nightmares that occur along with the pain and suffering. Being better prepared gets lives back together faster and easier.
Facing reality, if it were necessary to evacuate a home and never return to it again, it is highly unlikely that anyone could take along everything that would be needed. Without records it would be virtually impossible to substantiate insurance claims or establish a person’s identity. What if someone needed to be taken to a hospital and get help from a doctor who was not familiar with their case. How long would it be before they could be assessed and treated if they did not have a health record? Delay costs lives. Wouldn’t it be better if records were electronic and fit in someone’s pocket rather than in boxes of paper that had to be left behind?
People often lose everything they own when homes, neighborhoods and even whole towns are destroyed in fires, storms, earthquakes and floods. The recovery process is often long and painful. The last thing someone needs is bureaucratic red tape when they have already suffered enough. Nevertheless, minor discrepancies in paperwork invite bureaucratic nightmares. Whether information is missing, incomplete, inaccurate or simply does not match, even a typo that was made many years ago can be hard to change. The rules of the game have changed, and we need to be able to substantiate who we are and everything about us. Digital records that we carry with us or are backed up in “the cloud” make data available when and where it is needed.
Even if paper records are not destroyed, they deteriorate over time. Sorting through a shoe box for something and finding that it has become faded and is no longer readable can be pretty frustrating. Conversion to electronic records is a big improvement. Although it takes time, gradual steps make a difference right away and not everything will need to be converted.
We recommend the following.
1. Start by preparing basic contingency plans. When calamities strike, being ready to address them is essential. Plans can always be improved.
2. Collect and save electronic files instead of paper ones, whenever possible. Digital records provide convenience and portability. Electronic records are easy to create when work is done a little at a time. They are easy to search. For example, include a list of phone numbers to call for help, a copy of a driver license or passport, a list of account numbers and instructions to access them on-line, copies of family photos, receipts, certificates, wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies, deeds, and tax returns.
a. File records chronically by subject. They can always be reorganized.
b. Use file types such as PDF that can be read by anyone’s computer, tablet or smartphone.
3. Create and include a consolidated, organized, digital summary of your health history. It will help you to get in the habit of keeping electronic records, provide peace of mind, and enable professional caregivers to get up to speed quickly so they can help you when it is needed. Use Lifelong Personal Health Record software (http://www.lifelongphr.com/) to store your data and create the summary.
4. Backup Important Files. In addition to having master copies on a personal computer where you can control and protect your data, backup electronic files using an encrypted Internet service and put copies on small portable devices such as smartphones, flash drives, tablets, bracelets and medallions for easy access. Security is important to avoid worry about what someone else is doing with your data.
Not a Do-It-Yourselfer? Contact us for assistance.
This morning when I woke up, I turned on The Weather Channel to help me make plans for the day. There was a commercial for their services that showed Noah out in the hills with two hands superimposed on the scene to represent God. The hands were gesturing while there was talk about 40 days and 40 nights of rain and the need to build an ark. The message from The Weather Channel was about the “Miracle of Personalized Weather.” This is an example of personalized information that they and others are gradually making available to customers.
Better services and solutions are facilitated by storing and analyzing digital information about things customers need and ask for. Everywhere vast amounts of data are being collected and mined to provide commercial value. They are turning the digital data explosion into gold. This is likely why Facebook’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) is being valued higher than the market capitalization of established companies like McDonald’s and Hewlett Packard.
Of this new generation of innovators, Amazon is the company that I use most often. My on-line account shows every purchase that I have made since January 1998. I may have even made purchases before that, but in any event, the information they have been collecting about me is significant. They are mining it to analyze my buying habits, find things that will interest me and compare my inquiries to ways other customers have satisfied similar needs. All of this is available to help me make more efficient use of my time and better purchasing decisions. I also learn from the feedback of others and contribute my own comments when I can. Teamed with UPS, FedEx and USPS, I can track most shipments and see when they will or have arrived even minutes before.
I suppose that everything has its downside. Perhaps some of the information being collected could be used to take unfair advantage of consumers if it becomes too concentrated. Thus far this does not seem to have happened. There are many opportunities left where digital data and data mining can bring value to our lives. Healthcare is a perfect example with its paper legacy and consumers who have limited roles in decisionmaking. Challenges like these make progress especially difficult. However, as I look back on my 15-year relationship with Amazon, progress and value go hand in hand over time. Success requires participation, not just spectators. As learning proceeds and roles change, benefits of mobile, information and network-based solutions will no doubt continue to grow. Expect this to be a continuing subject for this blog. Please share your views and comments.