Posted on behalf of Christine Duval, Marketing Manager at Summit Healthcare

What keeps a Hospital CIO up at night? It’s one of those burning questions that every HIT vendor would like to know, and provide a solution for. In numerous interviews and conversations, the most common responses are cybersecurity and downtime preparedness, two topics which often go hand in hand. As more and more organizations continue to rely solely on electronic data exchange, it’s not surprising that their main concern is being able to protect their patient health information, as well as ensure hospital staff has access that information at any given moment.

According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, the average downtime costs $7,900 per minute but, besides revenue loss and hefty fines for HIPAA noncompliance, the devastating costs of a downtime are not always obvious… everything could be at risk.

The catastrophic impact to patient safety, reputation, customer service, and trust caused by unplanned downtimes is a painful reality in today’s electronic healthcare setting.

If a hospital is experiencing a ransomware attack, they typically cannot access their EHR or patient records for a period of time. It can be anywhere from hours, to days, to weeks.  With cybersecurity threats on the rise, hospitals need to ensure they have appropriate measures in place to help mitigate potential threats which could affect their ability to provide uninterrupted care for their patients in the event of an attack.

What about the other leading causes of an unplanned downtime – natural disasters and system failures. Over the last few years alone, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other catastrophes have caused astronomical damage across North America and the rest of the world.  Having an effective downtime solution in place could have meant the difference between life or death for many patients in those hospitals affected.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the headlines just over the past few years due to an unplanned network or EHR downtime:

  • Dozens of hospitals lose access to EMRs for 5 hours during a major service outage
  • 24-hospital system EMR inaccessible for a day due to network problem. Even the backup went down… “families became concerned because they noticed patients were not getting their medications…”
  • California hospital EMR went dark for a week – clinicians unable to access medical records and had to postpone serious medical treatments.
  • EHR Downtime Drives TN Hospital to Invest in Backup System – The system-wide outage affected nearly 90 physicians and their patients and forced staff to cancel numerous appointments.
  • California hospital EMR went down after HVAC unit burned out… One patient had a positive test result delayed for two weeks and additional cardiac intervention efforts were delayed
  • Colorado Hospital Recovered from EHR Downtime Following Network Outage – Hospital has fully restored its computer system, ending a sustained period of EHR downtime.
  • Third of Hospitals Lack HIPAA-Compliant EHR Contingency Plans – Required to have a contingency plan in place for responding to disruptions to electronic health record systems, whether they are cyberattacks, natural disasters, power outages, hardware malfunctions, or Internet connectivity problems.

If your organization’s network or EHR goes down, how can you ensure that you’re still able to provide exceptional care for all of your patients? You should have a comprehensive, web-enabled, backup plan that will ensure all necessary data is available and easily accessible 24×7, from any device or location:

  • Medication Administration Record (MAR) – dose and future scheduled times of medications on a patient, so nothing is missed during the downtime.
  • Medication Summary – a reference list of what of Medications a patient has been administered, as well as what was declared upon admission.
  • Lab Results – providing results on tests performed, to prevent the same test from being performed over again unnecessarily.
  • Census – Important to know what patients are where and provides a worklist for a clinician or nurse to work from.
  • Nursing History – Useful when beginning the diagnostic process, including what medications (prescribed, over-the-counter, or even recreational).
  • Rounds Report – Useful for providing a worklist for a physician of patients to visit during rounding.
  • Dietary Reports – allergies or special diet restrictions to prevent allergic reactions as well as ensures Low-Sodium or other special requirements

Without access to accurate, up-to-date patient data, the ability to ensure patient safety is near impossible during any type of downtime, planned or unplanned.

If you need help implementing a business continuity plan for your organization, or would like to talk about the Summit All Access for Downtime solution, reach out to us at info@summit-healthcare.com.