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Server Crash Disrupts Medical Office and Patients

3.15.2012Cost of Downtime, EMR, Failure, Healthcare, High AvailabilityBy: “Our server is down,” is not what I wanted to hear when I called my doctor’s office to make an appointment.

“You’ll have to call back in an hour,” the receptionist said, and I could hear other phones ringing off the hook in the background.

An hour later, I tried again and got the same harried receptionist, stuck without a network and a way to schedule appointments.

For me, it was a slightly annoying – calling and calling and calling again, only to make an appointment for a checkup I’m reluctant to get anyway.

Multiply my frustration with the number of patients both coming in for appointments that can’t be carried out, and patients who can’t cancel, reschedule, or make appointments. Add to that the frustration of patients calling for any number of other reasons: change insurance plans, get lab results, or consult their physician about a health issue.

All of this patient angst, however, pales in comparison with the headache a server fault brings upon the medical office personnel. The doctors, nurses, and administrators are all brought to a halt, helpless to do anything without access to their scheduling system, email, or their electronic health records.

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Downtime disrupts business, costs time and money, as well as the reputation of the office. Comment below, or send us a tweet at @Stratus4uptime if this has happened to you, and how you manage your business’ uptime.

Keeping Electronic Health Record (EHR) Applications Available at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital

3.1.2012Disaster Recovery, EMR, Failure, Healthcare, High AvailabilityBy: Today, your Danskos are going to power over the linoleum floors, moving from patient room to patient room. In a sea of charts, beeping machines, gurneys and meal carts, you know that one small misstep can set back your whole day.

It isn’t a large leap, then, to understand that one lapse of even a small amount of downtime for the a hospital’s electronic health record (EHR) system can bring the entire hospital – staff, patients, and machines alike – to a standstill.

Ten years ago, when doctors and nurses used paper charts, the risk of inaccessible data was low, as was the level of efficiency. Aside from the occasional misfile or lost folder, patient medical histories were never completely unavailable. Electronic medical records have done wonders to streamline accessibility to patient information, but they also created vulnerability and a single point of failure in the server.

Click here to learn how Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital prevents downtime.

The HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, however, demands “meaningful use” of technology in healthcare environments, with a $2 billion incentive behind it. Designed to make the exchange of healthcare information between healthcare professionals easier and more accurate while improving the level of care patients receive, the bill strongly encourages healthcare practices to adopt EMR .

Once the tedious process of data entry and document scanning is complete, medical practices can reap the rewards of a paper-less system, but that efficiency comes with a catch: If the EHR system goes down, medical records are as good as gone. As a result, protecting servers and applications from downtime becomes paramount.

Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital , a 25-bed hospital in the northeast, implemented virtualization technology with high availability software to address concerns over medical records accessibility. To see their prescription for success, read the case study.

Quick Tips for Ophthalmologists Searching for the Right EMR: What to Look For

2.21.2012EMR, TechnologyBy: This guest post is written by Katie Matlack of Software Advice and discusses what ophthalmologists on the lookout for the right ophthalmology EMR solution should keep in mind. You can view the original post this story is based on here.

 

At Software Advice we hear often from individuals who are looking for an EMR for a particular specialty. We decided it would be useful to go out and interview those within one specialty, Ophthalmology, who had strong opinions on what characteristics were the most important to look for in an EMR solution. I spoke with four ophthalmologists and a practice manager to research this piece. Here are the major takeaways.

 

1) It’s important that your solution can handle large image files efficiently.

 

You probably already know that ophthalmologists deal with lots of very high-resolution images of the eye. Since the file sizes for those images can be quite large, without the right solution your image files could slow down the rest of your EMR system. Dr. Dean Calson of Eye Associates of Colorado Springs told me that his system allows him to run his images off a second server, eliminating any possible competition for processing power between his images and the rest of his EMR. Dr. Valla Djafari of the Texas Retina Institute, on the other hand, noted that his Web-based EMR allowed him to use the wireless network of whatever office he was working at to easily access the files he needed. As a more mobile doctor who worked at multiple locations that referred patients to him, he stressed the ease of the Web-based option for its convenience as well.

 

2) Interconnectivity with eye measurement tools is key.

If your EMR platform can connect directly to your testing equipment, your life will be made a lot easier. Dr. Byron Tabbut of Wheaton Eye Clinic mentioned that having all information available from one source–your EMR–can save you from “having to hunting and pecking all over” for data from various different places.

On the topic of interconnectivity, here’s a useful tip that one ophthalmologist, Dr. Walter Harris of Rittenhouse Eye Associates, shared. It’s related to pricing questions you should keep in mind when speaking with vendors:

“It’s worth the money for a system to be able to intersect with your testing equipment. But different companies will charge differently for this ability; one might offer an unlimited option, while others might charge you per piece of equipment.”

Dr. Harris recommended asking each vendor about the pricing structure of the feature, and also suggested having a list of all your exam equipment in hand when you meet with vendors.

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Cost of Downtime for Pharmaceuticals

2.14.2012Cost of Downtime, Healthcare, High Availability, Mission Critical, Technology, uptimeBy:  

Recently, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer recalled over a million birth control pills due to packaging and visual inspection errors.  The media coverage of the incident was crucial to getting the word out about the possibly-erroneous packs, but it also serves to draw attention to the costly fragility of pharmaceutical processes.

In the time it took to package just 30 birth control packs, they created such a huge reputation disaster that it shook public confidence in the company’s products. Due to the nature of the industry, reputation is critical: patients with heart conditions or blood disorders won’t trust a company to put together the complex chemical configurations creating life-saving drugs if they can’t even count out 28 pills without a problem.

This particular accident wasn’t technology-related, but you can see how a similarly small fault in a pharmaceutical manufacturing server could prove disastrous.  Downtime of traditional high-availability solutions – including Microsoft clusters that fail over to another machine, but completely lose the data from whatever processes were occurring at the time of the fault – is around 8 hours and 46 minutes annually on average.

This begs the question, how many birth control pills do you think Pfizer packages in a full workday? That is the amount of pills that would be affected with “traditional” high availability solutions.

Understanding your plant’s annual downtime and its total cost is critical to finding a solution that best fits your needs. The goal should be to minimize downtime by implementing high availability technologies that work with your existing applications. The simplicity of adaptable high availability solutions add value without adding to the total cost of ownership of your servers and IT headaches that accompany management of new technologies and machines.  Protect your company, products, and brand reputation simply and effectively by doing the research upfront and implementing tools before a fault breaks down plant production. To learn how to calculate the cost of downtime, read our whitepaper  or watch the webinar.

Learn how you can avoid application availability issues with everRun Monitor, providing a single, unified, at-a-glance view of the health and availability of hardware, operating systems, software applications and remote devices.

Eye Appointments, Holiday Parties, and Dreaded Insurance Claims

12.22.2011Cost of Downtime, Healthcare, High Availability, Mission Critical, Technology, uptimeBy: The other day, I was taking care of my end of year appointments, one of course was seeing my eye doctor.  I was overdue which is especially important since I am a diabetic and need my eyes checked each year.  Because my ophthalmologist is so busy, getting an appointment is nearly impossible. I had to miss my company holiday party because I had to book this appointment three months in advance. I did try to reschedule it but that would have had to be in February of next year.

Once at my appointment, I learned my ophthalmologist office is transitioning to EHR and they had my folder to check me in and do my exam. After they finished, they placed  a bright yellow paper on top of the papers in the file “ALERT, Patient is now in EHR system”.  So I sat there, missing my holiday party and thinking that if that system wasn’t available, could they still see me after they purge all the manila folders and my paper records?

Was there a backup, and would I be sitting here next year in the same predicament, but with a doctor unable to access my records if the server went down? And since the office is so busy, how much downtime would severely impact their schedule and patients? Would they have the time cushion to back fill the missed appointments, and if not, would I have to reschedule for February, miss my insurance claim for the year costing me more out of pocket, have to take additional time off from work, and of course – miss another holiday party?

Bah Humbug!

Analyst Mark Anderson on “The Costs and Implications of EHR System Downtime on Physician Practices”

6.24.2011Cost of Downtime, Fault Tolerance, Healthcare, High Availability, Technology, uptime, VirtualizationBy: Mark Anderson of AC Group discusses his report on “The Costs and Implications of EHR System Downtime on Physician Practices.” He points out that most EHR installations are leading to costly downtime that has a major impact on patient care, and explains ways to reduce these costs and risks. For more information about finding the right solution for uptime assurance in the healthcare field, click on over to our healthcare page.

EHR IT 101: Backup and Availability are Different Things

5.9.2011EMR, Fault Tolerance, Healthcare, High AvailabilityBy: Having just returned from the eClinicalWorks Northeast Users Conference – a really helpful and informative conference of 1200 enthusiastic users – the IT challenges that face small to mid-sized EHR practitioners were never so apparent. Unlike larger facilities and hospitals with IT staffs and expertise, the small practitioners are jumping on the EHR bandwagon without a parachute – in otherwords moving to an EHR system which, no matter how great the software is, is going to fail.

Why is that?

A standard computer is not designed for high availability and is going to fail. That’s annoying if it’s your family pictures on the disk drive that crashed, and having your data backed up is critical. It’s different however for EHR – your system is down, the records are not available at the point of patient care, back up data may not be current and introduces the very risks that EHR is supposed to avoid like prescription error, false diagnosis, never mind lost appointments, lost productivity and costs.

Larger facilities who understand IT design their systems with high availability to reduce or eliminate the risk of system downtime in the first place. Stratus helps them do so and, as we discussed last week, we can help small and mid size practices also implement uptime assurance for their EHR systems to avoid the risk of system downtime to their patients and their practices.

It’s like health care really – yes, go to the doctor when you are sick and take your medicine (back up and recovery), but focus on preventive medicine (Stratus and uptime assurance) and not be sick in the first place.

Healthcare IT gaps – how do Microsoft and Stratus close them

5.4.2011EMR, Fault Tolerance, Healthcare, High Availability, uptimeBy: I had the chance to speak at the Microsoft Connected Health Conference in Chicago this week, where Stratus was among a number of Microsoft partners sponsoring this event. This was a well received conference with good insights on technology and services. Talking with practitioners and other partners also laid bare some limitations with Microsoft products – and why Microsoft embraces their healthcare partners so readily. A few important gaps in healthcare IT are solved with Stratus capabilities in line with key Microsoft products:

Microsoft SQL Server: It is the foundation of just about every EHR system. And few if any practice under 25 doctors or 100 users need Enterprise edition. However the Standard edition does not support high availability. So many practices that ask for high availability see their costs skyrocket because of this, along with the other costs involved with Windows Clustering. And yet many of these practices don’t have the IT expertise to install and manage Windows Clustering in the first place. The result? Most small to mid size EHR installations have NO high availability and are extremely vulnerable to these systems going down.

Answer? Stratus Avance and Microsoft SQL – provides high availability for any version of SQL Server, ease of implementation and operation so little IT knowledge is needed, and far lower costs to make this approach much more affordable to small and mid size practices.

Microsoft BizTalk: Is widely deployed for information exchange requirements so think HL7, EDI, CPOE, etc – critical healthcare applications which need to be available. Downtime for these systems can have serious consequenses. BizTalk is widely deployed for these kind of critical data interchange needs yet isn’t really supported by Windows Clustering – talking with several consulting partners who specialize in this area it’s a critical application need that doesn’t have a viable Microsoft high availability solution.

Answer? Stratus Avance or ftServer and Microsoft BizTalk – viewed as a single system, either of these Stratus solutions provide higher availability than Microsoft Clustering could hope to achieve, and give a powerful, yet cost effective solution for BizTalk high availability.

Microsoft has it right with it’s partner ecosystem.

Columbia Memorial Hospital named Laureate in 2011 Computerworld Honors Program

4.22.2011EMR, Healthcare, High Availability, VirtualizationBy: Columbia Memorial Hospital serves more than 100,000 residents in the Columbia, Greene and Dutchess counties of New York State.  The hospital focuses on advanced surgery, primary care and health education. It is a 192-bed acute care hospital, operates a 120-bed long-term care site as well as 26 outlying primary and specialty care centers.

It is also an innovator in using healthcare IT to improve the quality and access to patient care in its community.

And for that, it has been named a Laureate by the prestidious Computerworld Honors Program, which recognizes organizations and individuals who have used information technology to promote and advance public welfare, benefit society and change the world for the better.

We’re especially pleased that Stratus, and our partners eClinicalWorks and VMware, were chosen by the Hospital and Cathleen Crowley, CIO, for a solution that met their objectives:  creating a private cloud environment to make electronic medical records (EMRs) accessible across the many settings where patients receive treatment: the hospital campus, physicians’ offices and local nursing homes.  The benefits were considerable – so too was the challenge of serving over 200 clinicians, in more than 25 locations, who would access patient records over a secure Web interface on a 24/7 basis.

Columbia turned to trusted partners in achieving these objectives and ultimately succeeding – Stratus ftServers and storage arrays form the core of this cloud infrastructure to ensure the uptime required while simplifying operations and management.  Columbia selected eClinicalWorks for a robust ambulatory EMR solution which met the requirements across this broad set of users and facilities.  And implementing virtualization on the Stratus fault-tolerant servers with VMware allows Columbia to run the eClinicalWorks applications within virtual machines to increase flexibility and efficiency in delivering services within the data center.

Congratulations to Columbia Memorial for such a well deserved honor, and we at Stratus thank our partners, eClinicalWorks and VMware, for working together in creating a showcase that others can apply to their own environments.

Stratus tongue-in-cheek crash test dummy video

3.31.2011Disaster Recovery, EMR, Failure, Healthcare, High Availability, Technology, uptimeBy: We made a video about EMR software and crashes. Enjoy!

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