Disasters happen: Best to be ready
September 30, 2013 in Medical Technology
On any given day, a disaster occurring somewhere in the country is making news – whether it’s wildfires out West, floods in the heartland, a major tornado in Oklahoma or a ferocious storm like Hurricane Sandy hitting the East Coast. And while the focus is (rightly) on the human toll and physical destruction these events cause, little attention is paid to how important data and IT infrastructure is lost to provider organizations in the danger zones.
Perhaps that lack of publicity is why putting a disaster recovery plan in place hasn’t been a high priority for a number of healthcare providers. Vendors report that many of those who do have a backup plan are still using antiquated tape and that adoption of more sophisticated disaster recovery programs remains at a low level.
“Despite the critical importance of keeping data safe, not enough organizations are taking it seriously,” says Steve Deaton, vice president at Garner, NC-based Viztek. “Either they don’t want to spend the money on it or lack the desire to figure it out.”
While natural disasters are a legitimate threat to the preservation and access to medical data, other threats like the East Coast power outage of 2003 also loom large. Viruses and system attacks by hackers and terrorists must also be considered to be a very real possibility.
Overall, medical data is more vulnerable than it has ever been. Even so, data protection has also advanced rapidly over the past decade, as Deaton attests.
“Ten years ago we provided customers with two options – getting their own media that they made a copy of every day and took to a safe deposit box or over the cloud,” he says. “But back then the Internet was slow and expensive, so everyone burned a DVD every night.”
The digital revolution – especially through electronic medical records – has created patient profiles that are much more extensive and layered so that losing the data has even larger consequence, Deaton says. For instance, PACS images contain a wealth of information about the patient, and he says preserving those files has become a more complicated process.
“Today’s PACS files contain much more than images – they include data that is supportive of billing, insurance and profitability,” Deaton says. “We are past the day of taking everything digital – we are now homogenizing and making everything accessible for one program. So disaster recovery is no longer just one isolated facet.”
Kim Krisik, business development manager for Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW Healthcare sees a lot of procrastination among health systems when it comes to disaster recovery.
“They have the mentality of ‘maybe we can get by until next year,’” she says. “When we ask about their disaster plan, it is usually old.”