From the Ashes: Ensuring that Your Health IT Data is Secured & Easy to Recover

July 1, 2010 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment

The Most Popular Recovery Plan Today (Via Leonid Manchenkov's blog)

“Expect the unexpected.”

It’s one of those oxymoronic idioms that have become so ingrained in our culture, it’s hard to determine its origins but it’s taken as a universal truth. Obviously, if you expect the unexpected, then it’s no longer unexpected; but it’s not meant to be a literal set of instructions. As we all know, expect the unexpected means to assume that things will go wrong, or to at least have some contingencies in case your plan doesn’t work out as you intended them. I was reminded of this phrase while reading this list of Top 5 EHR Adoption Barriers and came upon the last one:

Can the Networks Support the Data?
Today’s data explosion is driven by many industries, but healthcare records and imaging are fueling a big part of the growth. Healthcare providers are worried about the complex networking capabilities and their ability to handle the 24×7 influx of massive amounts of data and the disaster recovery plans needed to support that data. VARs play a pivotal role in the networking and disaster recovery markets, so smart VARs will use their knowledge to close the deal.

It was an interesting issue that I hadn’t spent much time thinking about. That’s not to say that we hadn’t taken all of this into account when designing our products, but I personally had never conceived that this would be an obstacle or imposing barrier to health facilities that want to adopt electronic health solutions. And that’s when I decided to look at our products to see how they fare if the unexpected happened and we needed to recover data.

For a while, a few organizations had disaster recovery plans – but mostly it was just to back-up and restore their data or, if they lived somewhere with a tendency for natural disasters, a plan of action in case something happened to the central office. Following 9/11, many more companies implemented disaster recovery plans – realizing how vulnerable their facilities and data was if anything as terrible or drastic as that day was to befall them or their organization. This included everything from routine back-ups and storage of data, to exit plans and calling trees. The question that seemed to foment in most minds was how would an organization carry on if it was hit as hard as possible by the random acts of violence, be it natural or man-made?

The need for data consistency is fairly plain – if information is unattainable, then it is useless. And if changes that range from moving offices to devastating disasters can disrupt an organization’s ability to retain and utilize it’s data, then that also renders the collected data as useless. Something, eventually, will come along and change the organization’s status quo; it’s as inevitable as it is unexpected, and therefore it needs to be anticipated. How can you be sure that your information is safe, secure, and readily accessed no matter what condition your organization is in?

We’ve approached this problem the way many other IT firms (both in and outside of the health industry) have solved this quandary: we’re utilizing cloud computing. Cloud computing is a buzzword that’s causing a lot of excitement in many techies across the globe. To define cloud computing, I’ll need to put on the IT geek hat for a bit, and say that as opposed to 1 server holding that program – the way we load MS Word on to our computers or download Skype onto our computers – the service is found online, usually on different servers acting in unison (like Voltron!), offering redundancies to ensure data security and consistency.

Multiple servers hosting the information means that the program is more secure (as it’s harder to locate for hackers) while at the same time being more accessible to users – if you have a web connection and an account, you have access to the program. Examples of this would be Google Docs – in which multiple people can share documents and edit them online. They can download “hard” copies of these documents, if desired, to their local computer – but the program and data live on in the cloud.

What this means, in practical terms for users of OpNote (for example), is that a physician can start her postoperative report in the OR, save it, and work on it at her office, save it again, and then finish it at her home – all without losing any of the data. Cloud computing offers users the chance to have consistency and continuity in all of their data and reporting. The same architecture that allows such mobility in its users also enables the ease for recovery if anything goes wrong on the user’s end – if something happens to your computer, or your office, or you have to change locations. No matter what happens in the physical world, the digital ether prevails and the information remains, ready to be used and referenced whenever you want. And, as the data is encrypted and isn’t located on one dedicated server, it’s security is greatly enhanced. So even if the unthinkable happens – your information is still there.

You can never expect the unexpected – but you can be assured that barring a global meltdown of biblical proportions – “dogs and cats, living together…mass hysteria!” – your health IT solution has your data safely secured and easy to recover once the smoke clears.

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Press Release: mTuitive Debuts Latest Product, mTuitive OpNote, at Becker’s ASC Conference UMass Memorial Medical Center Division of Neurosurgery to Use mTuitive OpNote

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