“Houston, we have a problem!”
Understanding EHR downtime and its effects on your organization.
July 19, 2019
Written by Brian Beals
Imagine yourself in a situation in which you have a patient in critical condition with numerous allergies and a number of outstanding orders? Dispensing his or her medication—the right dose at just the right time—could represent a life-threatening situation.
Suddenly, your network goes completely dark. You have zero access to your EHR. What would you do? Are you prepared for such a situation?!
One of the primary goals of an Electronic Health Record (EHR) is to have all the patient’s information readily available from any workstation at any time. Hospitals invest millions in implementing a new system, and vendors invest even more ensuring there are redundancy and failover systems in place to keep the EHR accessible 24 hours a day.
As EHRs and infrastructures become more and more reliable, hospitals grow accustomed to continuous access.
But what happens when suddenly the system becomes temporarily unavailable?
Periodically, there are updates and required maintenance that results in planned downtime. But sometimes, there is an act of nature or other unforeseen events that suddenly takes your whole system down by surprise. Knowing you have a plan in place for this emergency situation will help you feel confident and prepared for whatever comes your way. So…how exactly do you plan for and prepare your staff for how to act during these circumstances? Atlanticon is here to help you navigate these situations so you always feel ready for whatever comes your way.
Most EHR vendors either market their own products or partner with a company that offers a downtime solution for your facility. These systems are designed to continually capture key patient information and write it to specified hard drives for access in the event the network connection to your EHR is lost.
While this technology is extremely helpful during downtime, it’s useless if you don’t have a strategic plan for deploying and using the solution. Here are a few things to consider:
- Know what patient and clinical information you must-have in the event your system is down. i.e. height, weight, allergies, medications, orders/results, etc.
- Know how the data is retrieved. Is your data printed in report form or is it for local device viewing only?
- Know exactly how many locations will have the local-device viewing solution available. The fewer devices, the more planning is required for delivering reports.
- Know in advance how each device will be powered if there is an electrical outage.
- Know exactly who will have access to the solution and how are they being trained to handle the dilemma in a calm, confident way.
Atlanticon has developed customized downtime strategies for clients all across the country. Each one is tailored specifically to your facility’s budget and staffing capabilities. Bringing an experienced partner on board can be just the thing your organization needs to “weather the downtime storm.”
Expect the Best, but Prepare for the Worst
Most hospitals can easily manage downtimes that last from 8 to 12 hours. But, how prepared are you for one that lasts days or even weeks? Could you effectively take the last electronic information available to you and continue the same level of patient care for a sustained period of time?
In essence, would you be able to effectively transition back to paper in the event of an emergency?
Downtime solutions absolutely help bridge the gap with access to vital information, but only if your staff routinely rehearses what to do when the need arises. Assuming you have deployed a technically solid downtime solution, here are some other strategic considerations:
- -Has every department updated and reviewed their downtime procedure?
- -How are you communicating a facility-wide change to downtime procedures?
- -If the network is out, do phones still work? Are there emergency radios in place?
- -Is the downtime solution on a generic login or is it specific to each department/user that has a device? Is the device checked regularly with these logins?
- -Does every department have paper downtime forms/folders, and do they know where they are located?
- -Do you have regular downtime simulations/training, so staff remains familiar?
These are just some of the factors to keep in mind when developing downtime processes and procedures. At the end of the day, if you follow these steps, you can confidently say that your patients will still receive excellent care—even during a system outage.
Atlanticon has extensive experience with downtime planning and preparation. If you would like to explore how we can help your team get prepared for an unexpected EHR downtime, give us a call at 904-868-2020, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule a call through www.atlanticon.net.