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An Easy Week to Blog: Disaster is all Trick and no Treat

Created: 30 Oct 2012
David Finn's picture
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It is almost too easy to blog this week.   Halloween would have been enough - - scary things are easy to talk about in HIT, there are so many of them right now.  But then we get Superstorm Sandy in the same week, how could I not write about bad scares and Disaster Recovery?  Disasters, unfortunately, happen and they are all trick - - very little treat.  Disaster Recovery, in a technical (no pun intended) sense, belongs to IT and your Facilities team.  You can have a great DR plan but if Facilities didn’t order the diesel for the generators . . . oh, well.  Prepare your resume.

Disaster recovery, from the IT perspective is not all that difficult.  It does take some time as in planning and testing and some money but we know what to do.  You don’t put the phone switch in the basement if you are housed in a flood plain (been there, done that).  You have geographic HA in place for your clinical systems (and other critical systems - - don’t forget email).  You have backups - - onsite and offsite.  You have your schedules and rounding lists pre-printed.   Oh, yes, paper should be part of any good IT DR plan.  And you probably have some alternative access plans for systems, communication plans (for internal and external communications) and don’t forget emergency security processes.

And all that doesn’t do one bit of good if you don’t have that dirty dark side of DR taken care of - - and that is Business Continuity.  CEOs and COOs who, historically, never had to understand the difference between DR and BC always thought “IT will take care of that.”  The problem is IT can’t keep the business processes running.  Believe me; you don’t want a sys admin planning the bagging of your NICU patients or a security analyst ordering the MRE for the ride out team.  Healthcare does a great job dealing with “emergencies”.  If I had a crisis, I’d want a nurse with me or an ER doc - - nobody solves problems faster or more efficiently.

The problem is that emergencies you get through and go on.  Disasters, like Superstorm Sandy or the hurricanes I’ve been through, keep on giving.  Power can be out for weeks, food and other critical supplies will run low.  Staff will have to sleep and shower somewhere.  And remember the things you plan for are never the things that trip you up.  So, if you are going through Sandy, you are in our thoughts and prayers.  Be safe and take care.

If you aren’t dealing with a disaster this week, you should be - - you should be planning for the one that will come.  And you don’t know what it is.  Start with your DR, what you can control (although you’ll need non-IT leadership to prioritize the systems for you).  Then go out and enlist risk managers, nursing, medical staff, facilities, schedulers, HIM - - everyone - - to help plan their own businesses’ continuity.  DR and BC go hand in hand and need to be coordinated.  Take advantage of a time when so much of the country is focused on “keeping things going and getting back to normal” to make sure you can do that when your “disaster” hits.  It is only a matter of time.