Disaster Recovery Services: Saving Health Care?

We’ve described how electronic health records could present an opening for MSPs as healthcare providers seek externally hosted systems. But health organizations with in-house EHR systems also present a services opportunity: disaster recovery.

Here’s why: hospitals face uptime concerns as medical records transition from paper to electronic form. Patient safety depends on keeping records available. It’s a situation that raises the profile of disaster recovery.

But many hospitals are in a bind. IT budget constraints make it difficult for them to build out redundant data centers. Another obstacle: hospital IT departments have few people to dedicate to developing and testing disaster recovery plans. A managed DR service, however, provides a workaround for healthcare organizations.

Halifax Health, a hospital system in East Central Florida, chose this direction, working with SunGard Availability Services. Halifax had been using LTO 2 tapes for backup and contracted with a third party to transport the tapes off site. In the event of a major data loss, the tapes were delivered to a SunGard facility for data recovery.

Halifax now uses SunGard’s Secure2Disk recovery solution. This approach places an EMC Data Domain disk storage system at the customer’s site and a second unit at SunGard’s Philadelphia facility. The replication of data to the SunGard site eliminates the need to handle tape and speeds up recovery time.

SunGard’s personnel, meanwhile, are on hand to assist with DR tests and, in the event of an emergency, restoration.

“We are not a heavily staffed IT organization,” said Kevin Noel, manager of IT risk at Halifax Health. “If we had to do a recovery of a significant portion of the data center, we realized we wouldn’t have enough staff to work on tier one [applications] and send people to the recovery center in Philadelphia.”

SunGard also helps out with developing recovery scripts that document how to rebuild Halifax’s servers and bring its Meditech EHR system up. Noel said going with a managed service for that particular function works out well.

“We are very taxed with what the staff can do internally,” Noel said.

With documentation in hand, SunGard recovery personnel can handle the recovery chores without the hospital’s IT representatives having to be there.

In a recent DR test involving the Meditech EHR, data and systems were recovered within a 24-hour range, Noel said. An earlier test using tape took more than 60 hours.

Souvik Choudhury, senior director, product management – recovery services at SunGard Availability Services, said Halifax represents one of a number of healthcare customers pursuing DR services. He said recovery was an afterthought for such organizations 5 years ago, but now the conversation has changed amid the digitization of medical records.

“You really have to have a robust recovery strategy,” Choudhury said.

The Halifax case shows that installing EHRs, as grueling as that can be, isn’t the end of the service story. If you have a managed DR service to pitch, healthcare organizations may be one place to go.

TAGS: Technology
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