Government programs and incentives are accelerating the adoption of systems that streamline patient care processes and digitize patient records.   The implications are staggering – according to a report from the RAND HIT Project, the adoption of interoperable EMR (Electronic Medical Record) systems could produce efficiency and safety savings of $142 – $371 billion.  These savings are realized from process efficiencies ranging from reduced hospital lengths-of-stay to nurses’ administrative time, safety benefits from Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE), and health benefits from improved disease prevention measures and chronic disease management that translate to significant cost efficiencies while increasing patient care.

Most if not all hospital or patient care practices implementing EMR are also establishing continuity plans in the event of system disruption or failure.  At best however a continuity plan addresses basic operations until the system is restored.   There are significant costs – both financial and human – when an EMR system is down.  Often overlooked in deploying an EMR system is an understanding that different IT system decisions will result in different expected hours of annual downtime.   Making specific system availability levels a criteria in the evaluation and deployment of an EMR system should consider the costs to the hospital or practice when the EMR system is down, and a benefit analysis of increasing system uptime.  This will define what availability level is desired to reduce reduce or eliminate the risks and associated costs of an EMR system failure.

So, how does availability translate to hours of downtime and costs to an ambulatory or hospital care practice?  A typical IT implementation of an EMR system will offer in the range of  95.% availability, sometimes as high as 99.9%.   But 99.9%, that sounds pretty good, right?

Statistically speaking, 99.9% means your EMR system will be down 87 hours per year, on average.  That doesn’t sound quite as good anymore, does it?  Even more disturbing is calculating the costs, in financial and human terms, which even the best continuity plans won’t recover.

What’s the cost?  In an upcoming study commissioned by Stratus Technologies it is shown that the typical EHR-enabled practice spends 71.45% of all man-hours on automated “information”. This is compared to the average non-EHR enabled practice that only spends 28% of their annual man-hours on automated “information”.  That equates to between a 2 and 3 fold dependency on an automated system which could be down 87 hours a year.

We’ll cover these costs, and how Stratus helps our healthcare customers with EMR uptime solutions, in another posting.

Stratus Technologies provides solutions for EMR deployments which increase Uptime Assurance and reduce or eliminate downtime, provide simple/automated administration and result in a significant savings versus the costs associated with traditional or clustered server installations.