Hospitals Need Stronger DR/BC Plans and Infrastructure

Carl Weinschenk

To the uninitiated, the subtleties of disaster recovery and business continuity (DR/BC) may be lost. On one level, it’s about getting systems physically up and running after an outage. A somewhat less dramatic meaning of the term is to make the information that an organization controls available to those who need it without interruption or as soon as possible after the lights come back on.

This is nowhere more important than in health care. And it is at no time more important than now, with an almost palpable upswing in the severity of weather events and a verifiable increase in vital data. Whatever is happening — power failures, extreme weather, etc. — doctors’ offices, hospitals and other facilities must be able to grab imaging, medical records and other data immediately and with the same level of security as in calmer times.

Last week, BridgeHead Software offered details on an important release of a survey. The press release contains more information than most. The bottom line is that health care IT departments are worried about the increasing amount of data and their networks’ ability to handle it. For instance, only 26 percent told BridgeHead that they have a “robust” and “tried and tested” DR plan in place. The theme is simple: The amount of data is growing and DR/BC systems are struggling to keep pace.

Avaluation Consulting, a firm that focuses on the DR/BC sector, offers an in-depth look at hospitals and DR/BC. The story links back to a March piece it offered on the topic. Senior consultant Jacque Rupert sets the stage by saying that facilities generally use the hospital incident command system (HICS) to provide patient services in response to disasters. HICS is not often used, however, for the hospitals' internal DR/BC needs. The article — and the earlier one to which it links — deals with this secondary and very important use of HICS.

The severe events of the past few weeks — the fires in Colorado and the heat in the east — make health care DR/BC a vitally important and timely topic. Perhaps there is no better place to learn about how to prepare for bad weather — really bad weather — than from folks who have first-hand knowledge of it. The Missouri Hospital Association is offering a .PDF describing what was learned during the tornadoes that devastated Joplin and other emergency weather events that hit the state last year. This is from the executive summary of the thorough report:

Hospital leadership and management and emergency planners must continue to make emergency preparedness a top priority within their organizations. The principles of emergency preparedness must be integrated into all aspects of patient care and business operations. The critical roles and responsibilities needed during disaster responses must be thoroughly understood and routinely practiced by those who may assume such roles. Failure to plan and prepare and failure to execute EOPs are the basis for a strong case for litigation against hospitals and their leaders.

EOP stands for emergency operations plan.

Call it global warming or not, it’s pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that our weather is getting more extreme. It also is the start of hurricane season, which is another reason to be proactive. Hospitals, along with first responders, are the most vital organizations during and in the aftermath of such situations. They need to take BridgeHead’s survey to heart and work through DR/BC issues.



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