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When Healthcare Data Meets Natural Disasters

NHIT WeekThis is the second blog post in our #NHITweek series. You can check out the first one here.

As hurricane season comes to an end and the East Coast begins to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Florence, we reflect on how hospitals and health systems can prepare for natural disasters moving forward.

When Florence devastated North and South Carolina a few weeks back, 40+ of the 130 hospitals in North Carolina were in the path of the storm. People in hospitals – especially the elderly – are put at risk during an evacuation, and hospitals along the coast are doing everything they can to offset the damage done by these storms. Some hospitals, like Tidelands Health in South Carolina, prepare all year round for this exact scenario, making sure that their buildings are up for the challenge and that they have proper supplies and generators needed for an outage.

But What About Healthcare Data?

Beyond the physical necessities of disaster recovery in healthcare (water, shelter, food) hospitals must also consider the technical details of a disaster and make sure that patient medical data is always secure, and patient care is never compromised by any technical downtime.

This can be accomplished through a Disaster Recovery Plan, or DRP, which is a “documented, structured approach with instructions for responding to unplanned incidents.” Hospital IT staff have to consider how clinical workflows will continue running in the event of a disaster, and the importance of disaster preparedness grows as hospitals continue to move data to the cloud.

How Can IT Staff Plan for Disasters?

Healthcare organizations should not continue to push back on creating these plans because of the time, money, or resources it will cost them. Decision makers must plan for a potential disaster and consider the ways it could affect their facility. TechTarget outlined a few suggested key steps for effective disaster recovery planning.

  1. Business Impact Analysis (BIA)– evaluate the impact of outage for each system and application. Determine the effect on patient care if that system were to have downtime. 
  2. Identity possibilities of failure and develop a plan to address each failure. For example, setting up a remote data center or working with an outside vendor to store data. 
  3. Confirm that the disaster recovery plan is HIPAA-compliant. HIPPA disaster recovery requirements require access to electronic protected health information, disaster recovery, and emergency operation plans.

Does your facility have a disaster recovery plan?

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Mimi Wirth. SDR Ambra Health

About Mimi Wirth

Mimi is a Sales Development Representative here at Ambra Health. She received her Bachelor’s in Public Health from Tulane University and is passionate about patient-centric healthcare. In her spare time, she enjoys eating Italian food and indulging in bad reality TV.

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