Maintaining the integrity and availability of the infrastructure is top of mind for every business. But the stakes are especially high in healthcare. When a critical system is unavailable, it not only impacts business operations and processes for providers, it can ripple out to affect patient care and outcomes.
Compliance is essential for healthcare providers as well, and most providers have compliance built deeply into every aspect of their technology. But if a system goes down, caregivers and administrators must often resort to manual, paper-based processes. Not only can the downtime cause data loss, the manual processes don’t have the built-in compliance controls that the technology has. This can result in privacy issues, exposing data that can compromise compliance with HIPAA and other regulations.
Disaster recovery (DR) is essential to help mitigate these risks and ensure the business continuity that today’s healthcare providers require. This article discusses the importance of comprehensive DR and offers some tips for raising the priority of DR in your organization.
Is your organization fully prepared?
The level of disaster preparedness for healthcare provider systems varies from company to company. Most providers allocate approximately 20 percent of their IT budget to DR, focused on their primary systems such as electronic medical records (EMRs), virtual desktops and imaging.
However, this leaves little for disaster recovery for secondary systems, such as human resources, timecards, payroll and biomedical systems. Those areas are often left vulnerable, and stand-alone systems like pharmacies may require manual recovery efforts that can be slow, expensive and error-prone.
The consequences of unexpected downtime
In any business, unplanned downtime is a serious issue, and it can cost thousands of dollars per day per system. Bringing a system back online is labor-intensive and expensive, and it often requires organizations to re-enter data.
In healthcare, the effect of an outage goes beyond the cost of bringing the system back up. Unplanned downtime can have a significant impact on patients, especially if essential healthcare systems become unavailable. In one instance, 80,000 patients were left without service for 24 hours after a major healthcare provider experienced an unplanned outage. Appointments were cancelled as patients sought other options, and patient outcomes were put at risk.
Improve your DR profile—starting now
It’s never too soon to begin looking at how to improve your organization’s DR profile. Start by encouraging your stakeholders to develop a new mindset that prioritizes DR as a mission-critical requirement, much like security. With a DR-positive mindset, your organization can start taking its first steps down the road to comprehensive DR preparedness.
- Cultivate situational awareness. Consider the most inconvenient times for your particular systems to fail. For example, flu season and severe weather will heavily tax most healthcare systems. You’ll want to defer discretionary maintenance during those times and be prepared.
- Build a support network. Partner with your vendors for spare parts or systems to help minimize the impact of unplanned downtime. Your vendors can help your IT teams plan for the possibility of an outage, so they have purchase orders or other documentation on hand to respond to an issue quickly and decisively.
- Plan for the future. As you review your funding for your existing systems, you can also begin the process of planning and costing for new systems—and always plan for continuous improvement, to stay ahead of potential problems.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Continue to build consensus and get buy-in throughout your healthcare organization. Healthcare executives should partner with business and healthcare stakeholders and set DR priorities together. Use cases, cost analyses and risk management studies can help make the case for raising the profile of a DR initiative.
- Consider software as a service (SaaS) and cloud technology. There are numerous SaaS and cloud solutions on the market today, tailored for healthcare organizations. When you’re evaluating a solution, consider an offering that can shift the cost from a capital expense to an operating expense. One advantage of software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud solutions is that they have DR built in—it’s not necessary to buy another product or system.
Some forward-thinking healthcare organizations have already taken these steps—and are very glad they did. For example, a major healthcare provider in Dallas, with five hospitals and 50 clinics, made advance preparations to enable their primary and secondary systems to resume operation with a minimally trained staff. When an unexpected outage occurred that took their primary systems down, their backup systems were up and running within five minutes, instead of days or weeks.
Take DR seriously with a proven technology partner
As more and more healthcare data moves online and the complexity of systems increases, DR is becoming more essential than ever before. Moving to a SaaS solution can reduce that complexity for you, but you need to choose your partner wisely. Select a technology partner that has not only the features and capabilities you require, but people with the knowledge and experience to partner with you to develop an effective DR strategy.
Mother Nature doesn’t care if you’re busy. Don’t delay—start improving your disaster preparedness position today.
About Nutanix: Nutanix has provided comprehensive DR to large hospitals and health systems, single facility hospitals and clinics, multilocation practices and more. The company’s highly flexible Nutanix DR platform saves healthcare customers a significant amount of money by working with everything they already have—they don’t need to match the exact equipment currently in their environment. Nutanix knows how critical business continuity is for providers and the patients they serve. Contact Nutanix to get started on the path to DR preparedness.
PATIENT PRIVACY AND DATA SECURITY
The Nutanix Enterprise Cloud delivers exceptional disaster recovery (DR) and continuity of business capabilities via native backup and replication for any hosted VM. Patient data is 100% protected via full replication. All data is de-duplicated and transmitted with byte-level granularity for maximum efficiency and space savings. Regulations such as HIPAA, HITECH, PIPEDA, GDPR, and the requirements of national healthcare systems can be easily satisfied.