3 Strategies to Prevent EHR Downtime

Advances in technology and mandates such as the HITECH Act has given technology an increasingly important role in healthcare, suggesting that healthcare organizations are going to become heavily reliant on technology for successful operations. For example, providers will depend on electronic health records when seeking patient information. But what would happen if the system went down? Organizations face the risk of delayed care to patients and medical errors if the application fails.

In addition to jeopardizing patient safety, system downtime can cause huge costs for healthcare organizations. A study by the AC Group for IT company Stratus calculated a $488 cost per hour per physician when the EHR system is down. Considering that the average uptime guarantee of vendors is 96 percent (AC Group), EHR downtime is a serious financial risk to hospitals.

This risk is extended to any physicians the hospital has shared EHRs with. Peter Charland, head of business development and alliances at Stratus, gives an example of a New York hospital that implemented a community EHR available to the hospital, affiliated physicians and practices in the community. "The impact of downtime in that case would be catastrophic," he says. To minimize the probability of EHR downtime, he suggests hospitals implement high-availability software and execute the following three strategies.

1. Adopt resilient technologies. All components of the hardware need to be redundant, Mr. Charland says. However, "If this is all you do and something fails, the application can restart, but you are down until then," he says.

2. Practice proactive management.
"Proactive monitoring and management involves software laid over the resilient hardware and operating system to monitor and identify events that precede an outage taking place," Mr. Charland says. "Proactive management is important to take action on events before a problem occurs and remedy them so the application stays up and running."

3. Implement best practices.
While best practices largely depend on the kind of technology used and how it functions in each organization, one unilateral best practice is backing up, Mr. Charland says. "You need to ensure your back-up integrity regardless if you have implemented high availability or not," he says.

Learn more about Stratus.

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