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.