Using a Secure Messaging App as Part of a Disaster Recovery Plan

It might be an extreme weather event-- a hurricane, a forest fire, a tornado. Maybe it’s an act of terror, or maybe it’s a failure of aspect of the infrastructure. Regardless of the cause, a disaster situation requires a calm, premeditated recovery plan in order to minimize damage and casualties. Recent events in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Las Vegas show just how chaotic the immediate aftermath of a disaster can be and just how essential it is to have a sound recovery plan in place.

There are many components to an effective disaster recovery plan. These include managing evacuation and emergency housing logistics, re-establishing information technology capabilities, restoring damaged infrastructure, and ensuring the continuity of human services. The common factor in a well-designed recovery plan, however, is the need for reliable lines of communication.

This need is even more pronounced in the healthcare sector. The sick and the elderly are uniquely vulnerable during a disaster situation. Evacuation of such individuals can be challenging, if not impossible. Many have acute medical needs, the disruption of which can be fatal. To complicate matters, protecting the most at-risk populations often requires communication between multiple agencies or care providers.

The particular vulnerability of the elderly was tragically evident after Hurricane Irma, when 12 residents of a nursing home located in southern Florida died during the aftermath of the storm. This horrifying, heartbreaking, and utterly preventable situation demonstrates just how important it is for healthcare professionals to have secure means of communication following a disaster situation.

Secure messaging tools are an emerging technology that fits well into a robust disaster recovery plan. These applications, which allow providers the ability to communicate using personal devices, such as smartphones and tablets, offer many advantages over traditional messaging systems, especially during a disaster.

One benefit of secure messaging is that users can utilize their personal devices for communication. This is enormously important in the aftermath of a disaster in which offices might be damaged or unreachable and phone lines and wi-fi networks might be down. Being able to send and receive critical information despite a compromised infrastructure is essential to making sure damages and casualties are limited and recovery measures are coordinated.

Secure messaging apps also allow for efficient, secure emergency notifications. Users can send messages, scalable to a large number of recipients, and maintain contact logs in order to easily see who has received and acted upon emergency communications. Complex communication flows can be easily managed, which helps to ensure that no one is being overlooked during recovery measures.

Finally, a high-quality secure messaging app will utilize end-to-end encryption and password protection, which allows for emergency communication in a manner that is HIPAA compliant. This is especially important for the transmission of protected health information-- the type of information that might mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. A strong secure messaging app allows healthcare professionals to be able to focus on effective and timely communication and not worry about inadvertent breaches of sensitive information.

Unfortunately, disaster events are a matter of “when” and not “if.” An efficient, timely response to these events relies on a proactive strategy: forward thinking and carefully planning are essential. AMTELCO has long been a leader in communications in the healthcare sector. Our 1Call miSecureMessages app represents the gold standard in secure messaging and would be an effective cornerstone of a well-designed disaster recovery plan. No one wants to think about disasters occurring, but foresight and the adoption of technologies like miSecureMessages can provide peace of mind and make a difficult situation more manageable. 

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