Health care concerns

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2005-10-03 Print this article Print

Nelson, what does disaster recovery for a health care provider mean?

Ramos: I think this hurricane took everyone by surprise because, in terms of disaster recovery, most of the planning is within a couple of days. The other aspect is, you always thought if there was major damage to the facility—in our case, a hospital—you would probably end up transferring the patients and closing down and having the service picked up by another institution. In this case ... health care was being provided in situations where the building wasnt functionally fit for extended periods of time.

You might have to deal with the situation of not only resuming business but also providing information to others. In our case, if were unable to provide medical care, we still have this vast knowledge warehouse of peoples medical records. So, while the organization might not be able to provide its primary function, IT may have a responsibility in taking its knowledge bases and sharing them with those who would be able to take advantage of that knowledge. So business resumption may not totally surround your business; it may mean going to another site and giving access to your data to those who can use it in a more effective way.

During the past few years, health care providers have been very leading-edge adopters of wireless technology, of networks, of the move from physical to digital imaging and so on. Do you have any sense at all if this has made people think that theyve been too quick to replace somewhat more fault-tolerant and gracefully degrading systems with electronic systems? And that there needs to be more thought given to questions such as: Whats your operational scenario when you dont have electricity, when you dont have connectivity and so on?

Ramos: I think the digitization of the data is something that will continue because were moving more toward electronic health records, the ability to move information among multiple campuses.

You certainly have a lot of pressures forcing you to move in that direction.

Ramos: Correct. We used to keep stacks of paper that were 3 to 4 feet high, in case a system went down. Now, with fault-tolerant systems, those huge paper backup systems that were used for short-term downtime scenarios are no longer there. So I think maybe [Katrina] will prompt us to rethink what we do and how we would deal with a medium-term outage.

Next Page: An education in disaster recovery.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developersÔÇÖ technical requirements on the companyÔÇÖs evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter companyÔÇÖs first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel