Disaster Recovery in the Healthcare Industry

Disaster recovery is an essential factor for almost all businesses. For those in the healthcare industry—doctors, hospitals and the like—its importance takes on an even greater role. It's about more than business solvency in these cases. Patients' ability to receive life-saving care hinges upon the security and availability of healthcare networks, and you only have to look to recent examples like the devastation in Puerto Rico to see the catastrophic effects disaster can wreak on a wider scale.

On the storm battered island, where "adults had higher rates of asthma, diabetes and hypertension than the U.S. mainland," these conditions have become harder to manage than even before Hurricane Maria, and, combined with a surge in patients needing medical care, have stretched the ability of hospitals to care for patients to the brink. It highlights the need for a well-managed disaster recovery plan, and also calls attention to one of the key disaster recovery challenges facing the healthcare industry (particularly in areas with already ailing health infrastructure).

Most HIPAA-covered healthcare entities, those that handle Personal Health Information (PHI) or Personal Health Records (PHR), are required to have contingencies in the event of emergencies. These requirements include the need for data backups and plans for moving sensitive personal information without infringing on privacy and security guidelines, but beyond that, there is little else about what, specifically, disaster recovery plans for hospitals and similar organizations must include. As a result, situations where such organizations might fail to adequately invest in their disaster recovery measures are all too common.

While the United States spends more on healthcare per person, about "$9,237 – according to two new papers published in the journal The Lancet," it's important to note that more money spent doesn't directly translate to more efficient services or better outcomes. What's more, budgets for institutions like hospitals are falling, driven down by increased complexity in the healthcare system and the rising cost of care. As a budget control strategy, IT departments in many medical fields are overlooked—to the detriment of effective disaster recovery planning.

In a way, it makes sense. How can your healthcare organizations make room for full-scale disaster recovery planning when you're already having trouble keeping the lights on and trying to provide patients with the urgent care that they need right now? Unfortunately, the decision to forego planning puts the industry in a precarious position when disaster finally strikes, and you're trying to scramble to work through issues you could have prepared for. What's more, the personal information of patients, along with their lives, may be at jeopardy.

With so much at stake, the need for proper disaster recovery techniques is clear. Organizations can implement several strategies to make certain they become prepared for the challenges of sudden disasters. The first is updating their cost control strategies to free up the budget to fund their IT departments sufficiently. With that done, they can not only make an effective business case for why implementing a robust disaster recovery plan is essential, they can show that it is feasible with their organization's budget and receive the funds to proceed.

From there, it's a matter of implementing a well-thought out DR plan that fits the organization's needs and will be successful in the event of multiple disaster scenarios. discovaIT has a wealth of experience helping organizations assess their current level of preparedness and advising on ways to improve it in the effort to save not only their business but their reputations and the lives of the people who depend on them.

Sources:

http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20170930/NEWS/170939994

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/04/20/524774195/what-country-spends-the-most-and-least-on-health-care-per-person

https://www.advisory.com/research/financial-leadership-council/at-the-margins/2017/01/sw-build-your-hospital-budget