The traditional method to protect data has been to make a copy of it, usually on a tape, and then take that copy off site. In practice this usually meant the front desk person takes a tape home each night. The theory was that if a disaster struck the office, such as a fire or flood, the computers and data at the office could be destroyed but the data would be easily recovered from the back up copy. On the other hand if all the data was on paper, in the form of charts, insurance forms, ledgers and schedule books and the office was destroyed the data would never be recovered.
This system works fine if the disaster is confined to a small area. However Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath especially in New Orleans devastated an entire city. The result is that data that was simply copied and taken off site in a staff member’s car could have been lost or destroyed along with the data in the dental office. Of course traditional paper data left in the office is gone forever.
As an interesting aside, I read an article that speculated that the grim task of identifying the dead in New Orleans has been made even more difficult as the ID of last resort, dental records, may not be available if the dental offices and the dental records were destroyed.
Dentists could have protected their electronic records in one of two ways. First would be to take a copy of the records either on a tape back up, a laptop or even a removable USB thumb drive with them when they evacuated. The second way would have been to back up the data on a remote server via the Internet. Internet back up is readily available from a number of general business companies as well as from dental vendors like Dentrix.