Patient care does not stop when a disaster affects data availability. Picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) and electronic health records (EHRs) are a vital component of healthcare informatics. Readily available image data and health records are critical to a facility’s operation. Their protection is also a regulated requirement. This is even more important as more hospitals and clinics share data.
Traditionally, disaster recovery solutions were a tedious and expensive undertaking. One option was manually backing up information to tapes and sending them offsite. This resulted in a lot of work effort and the potential for longer downtimes. Another traditional option has been to replicate data at an offsite data center. Although this method provides for a more automated process and quicker recovery, it requires a significant investment. Storage equipment must be purchased in large volumes to keep up with the growing PACS and EHR records, and equipment lifecycles must be maintained. In addition, space at a remote data center can be expensive. There is also the concern that the remote data center may be affected by the same disaster.
Secure cloud disaster recovery and archiving solutions, which are now available with many PACS and EHR systems, make disaster recovery an easier solution for administrators. Information is backed up with every keystroke, so you can ensure that your data is available without manually maintaining your back-up architecture. Cloud disaster recovery solutions have a number of benefits over the traditional model.
Low Cost of Ownership: Initial costs of cloud disaster recovery tend to be lower because there is no need to make a large investment on equipment, data center space, and expanding tier 1 storage. Instead, cloud services allow you to pay-as-you-go. Cloud storage is easily scalable, so it grows with your organization. In addition, it frees up your organization’s IT staff for other tasks because service providers often offer 24-hour service and support.
Automated DR: Virtualization provides automated recovery, reducing the risk of errors in a manual recovery process. Automating disaster recovery through virtualization increases standardization, which results in more reliable and repeatable recovery procedures. It is a more dependable solution than a traditional DR model because the entire hosted cloud, including servers, software, network configuration, and security, are replicated to an offsite disaster recovery cloud.
Rapid Recovery: Another cloud disaster recovery solution benefit is the ability to rapidly restore systems, databases, and applications, reducing recovery times after a disaster.
Security: Disaster recovery solutions are available with secure SSL data encryption and HIPAA-compliant security levels.
Of course different cloud-service PACS and EHR service providers have their own service offerings, and it’s important to choose a vendor that is right for your organization. Make sure that the vendor will sign a business-associate agreement for HIPAA compliance, and ensure that the vendor provides necessary data encryption and security levels. Then, look at how the data is stored, how quickly data can be accessed and retrieved, and how often data is duplicated. The more highly available your data is, the more it will cost, so look for a service level agreement suitable for your organization.