Back It Up! Why Backups are Vital to Your Hospital’s Cybersecurity

In every business, long periods of inactivity represent large chunks of wasted time and money. In the business of healthcare, time can also impact patient care and experiences.

An unexpected crash of your electronic healthcare records system (EHR), whether due to hardware failure or cyber security threats, can come with serious consequences. One of the best ways to mitigate the impact of unexpected downtime, or better yet, prevent it, is with a comprehensive data recovery plan supported by a full schedule of backups.

In comparison to other industries, healthcare data recovery plans and backups are of critical importance when considering what’s at risk. Many hospitals, however, don’t possess the adequate workforce or resources to quickly and effectively manage unexpected system crashes without serious operational setbacks. Hospitals are also saddled with HIPAA compliances, which adds to the challenge.

Although, much like insurance, having upfront protection is preferable to paying the full and hefty cost of data loss.

Unplanned EHR Downtime Can Have Significant Impact

Regardless of inadequacies or barriers smaller hospitals face, safeguards like incremental or daily backups, informed by well thought-out recovery plans are critical to its operations.

As an interconnected system with varying dependencies throughout the facility, an inactive EHR won’t necessarily put care at a standstill. It can however hurt care coordination, add hours to staff workflows, and draw out the care experience. As a result, costs can increase across the board.

Interruptions to an EHR system also force providers to regress to more rudimentary solutions like paper. During such temporary transitions and without proper backups, things can easily get lost or overlooked. Missing documentation for an allergy or gaps in patient care history can have a significant impact.

In addition to the more serious care complications, an article from For the RecorD Magazine states, as of 2017, unplanned downtime raised the cost of care to $634 per physician hour—an estimated 30 percent increase in less than a decade.

Downtime can seriously impede hospital operations, but patients pay double:

  • The cost of care rises
  • The level of care declines

Backups, Unexpected Downtime, and Your Healthcare Data Recovery Plan  

It is often said that it’s not a matter of if your system will go down, but rather when. Even more so, healthcare organizations represent a lucrative target for cybercriminals and ransomware attacks. Such threats can take a system offline and withhold critical PHI from providers. This reason alone highlights a need for heightened vigilance.

On top of HIPAA compliance, every smart HIT strategy includes a data recovery plan that takes these essential backup necessities into consideration:

  • Where is your data backed up?
  • Are backups on a variety of mediums?
  • How often is your data backed up?
  • How scalable is your backup solution?

Healthcare data recovery plans require ongoing efforts. For example, MEDHOST provides a safety net for their hospitals by:

  • Rolling backups on a regular cycle, including daily full-system saves at four-hour increments
  • Hosting EHR in dual offsite data centers for added variance and protection
  • Physically storing EHR data on different mediums, for instance two copies on different devices and one copy in the cloud, to avoid transmission errors during database reconstruction.

All of these are proactive measures MEDHOST takes to prevent or diminish the effects of unexpected crashes.

As more hospital operations move to digital spaces, they need to implement data security best practices similar to those industries who do the majority of their business online. Many of these organizations rely on cloud solutions to provide the essential data recovery safety nets that allow them to run 24/7/365.  A hosted EHR solutions provider that understands the unique care and operational needs of today’s hospitals can do the same.

Check out the MEDHOST Minute Blog for more videos and blogs on the healthcare industry’s evolving cybersecurity landscape. And don’t miss our terrifying tales of data breaches and security scares, in our new limited podcast series “Tales From the Encrypted.”

Further Reading:

Proactive Prevention to Battling EHR Cybercrime

Prevent Data from Walking Out Your Door With a Physical EHR Security Plan

A Guide to Proactive Network Defense for Healthcare Facilities

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