White Paper defines disaster recovery issues for health care organizations

Wayne 24 June 1998 Computer systems and information technologies are progressively conquering the health care facilities. Hospital information systems and electronic patient records allow a higher degree of effectiveness and efficiency with regard to health care procedures but in case of time-sensitive business interruptions, the patient is left at the mercy of failing technology, running considerable risks. SunGard Planning Solutions now has come up with a White Paper covering all possible disaster recovery issues, in order to help health care organizations become aware of the urgent need for redundancy integration into their computer systems. The document has been published under the title of "Healthcare and Disaster Recovery: The Critical Connection".

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Computer systems and information technologies are progressively conquering the health care facilities. Hospital information systems and electronic patient records allow a higher degree of effectiveness and efficiency with regard to health care procedures but in case of time-sensitive business interruptions, the patient is left at the mercy of failing technology, running considerable risks. SunGard Planning Solutions now has come up with a White Paper covering all possible disaster recovery issues, in order to help health care organizations become aware of the urgent need for redundancy integration into their computer systems. The document has been published under the title of "Healthcare and Disaster Recovery: The Critical Connection".

SunGard Planning Solutions is a division of SunGard Recovery Services Inc., a company which develops computer-based contingency planning tools and disaster recovery scenarios for all major computing platforms, including health care information systems. A sudden hospital system drop out not only puts the patients at life-threatening risk but also causes operational backlogs as well as important delays in billing and payment administration. Health care providers and hospital staff should be made conscious of the dangers they incur when relying entirely on their information technology equipment without any care or attention for accurate and preventive measures, if something should go wrong.

The SunGard team therefore has prepared this useful White Paper, which presents a summary of detailed health care disaster recovery implications. Much more than other sectors, health care environments are extremely vulnerable to computer system disruptions because they have a direct influence on the patient's condition. If the electronic medical record is unavailable for consultation or updating, severe mistakes with regard to type and dosage of medication, conflicting prescriptions or laboratory test results seem unavoidable. The report on "Healthcare and Disaster Recovery: The Critical Connection" fully describes the nature and consequences of the various risks, incurred by patient care institutions as well as key provider services.

The pressing need for disaster recovery measures has been inspired by two phenomena, which are the exponential growth of the health care business and the ever increasing regulation. In 1996, the United States have spent $1 trillion on health care, a figure which represents over 13 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) within the USA. This important expansion has enhanced the dependence on information technology, both in hardware and in telecommunications, to cover the varied health care spectrum, consisting of interconnected disparate hospitals, innovative delivery systems, such as telemedicine and Internet-based services, as well as the birth of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), linking patient care systems with insurance firms.

Next to this, the various concerned parties, namely the industry, the government agencies, and institutions, such as the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), tend to impose their demands with regard to standards regulation. As a result, sound and safe information systems solutions are required with the accompanying need for disaster recovery plans. That is why the White Paper concludes with a carefully drafted checklist with the suggestive heading "Are you prepared?" The checklist includes all major steps to be taken by health care facilities in order to remain operational in times when the computer system seems not to be responding anymore.


Leslie Versweyveld

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