Solar flares could disrupt healthcare operations

A solar storm that was recorded as one of the most powerful since 2006 could disrupt activities on Earth, creating major power outages and disabling radio-based communications, Fox News reported. This type of disaster could have a major impact on the healthcare sector, as the combination of power and communications issues could limit the effectiveness of electronic health records systems. Having a business continuity system designed specifically for healthcare solutions is key to withstanding unpredictable disaster events that could impact operational processes.

According to the report, the solar storms led to two especially noteworthy flares, which could have effects on Earth's magnetic field until Friday. One heated plasma blast expelled during the event traveled at 4 million miles per hour, with Earth in its direct path. This will lead to X-ray-like emissions around the atmosphere and substantial geomagnetic storms, Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the news source.

The results of these storms will be substantial, the report said. Satellite communication will be severely disrupted, making radio-based communications systems inoperative. While this will not necessarily impact the entire world and may only occur in sporadic areas, the effects are somewhat unpredictable. Flights in areas near the planet's poles are already being grounded because of communications problems. Kunches explained that the geomagnetic activity will also lead to power surges within the energy grid, which will create significant outages. Utility companies have already been warned about this possibility.

These types of unpredictable disasters can pose a major threat to healthcare information technology systems, as even a small disruption can lead to patient care problems. Patients can face major complications if the power goes out or the network device supporting communication and data in transit between emergency responders and physicians at a hospital stops working. As a result, medical providers need to be prepared for any contingency.

Having a disaster reporting and monitoring system in place can alleviate the tension surrounding potential disaster events, such as the incidents that may be created by the solar flare activity. An effective solution should be able to maintain operations in the event of a network or power outage by offering system redundancy and other options that allow physicians access to critical data regardless of the environmental conditions.