When EHR downtime occurs, it is devastating to all involved, but there are a few steps that organizations can take to avoid it. Putting necessary procedures in place to proactively avoid the chaos is a smart move for a healthcare company, and we have a few pointers on what you can do when EHR downtime occurs, and how to protect your company and patients.
What Is EHR?
EHR stands for Electronic Health Record. It is an electronic system for keeping track of patient charts, and health records, and is shared between medical facilities such as hospitals, pharmacies, schools, and laboratories.
What Is EHR Downtime?
This is when either the system crashes and becomes unavailable, or is restricted for the intended users. When EHR downtime happens it disrupts all areas of medical needs and poses a risk to patients.
Why Does EHR Downtime Occur?
Most of the time EHR downtime occurs due to a maintenance or system update, although clinical providers are typically forewarned beforehand to allow preparation time. However, this is not always the case and sometimes an unplanned downtime occurs. This could be for many reasons such as a simple glitch in the system, or more rarely, a hack.
How to Prepare for Potential EHR Downtime
EHR is vital to giving the right care to a patient, and communicating their needs from one party to another, so downtime is not only frustrating, but dangerous for the patient if their records are needed while systems are down. EHR downtime poses a huge risk to patients which is why it is so important to prepare.
Many organizations have a read-only system in place which helps when downtime occurs, as it allows the healthcare organization to see the patient’s latest records. However, these records must be updated regularly to be effective, else they are still potentially dangerous, or in the least, of no use without the latest information.
When downtime occurs, this may not only affect the EHR system but other backup systems also, so while it’s more time consuming, it’s also important for organizations to keep up-to-date paper documents.
Today we use pen and paper less and less, so it is important to give the necessary training to new medical staff and experienced staff who may need a refresher. Ensure that employees are aware of where the backup files are kept and the procedures to follow when using those files to avoid any further complications or breaches in data security.
Another significant thing you will need to prepare for is how to communicate that an EHR downtime has occurred. It is sometimes difficult to know how long downtime will last, especially if it is unplanned.
Communicating to, and updating employees regularly can help morale, and keep the day flowing as seamlessly as possible. To make sure that everyone is receiving the updates, communicate through multiple methods such as email, phone, websites, or secure internal messaging.
It is important the employees know that if an unplanned EHR system occurs that they know who to report to. Notifying the relevant people quickly can save a lot of time and frustration. As soon as the healthcare IT services know, they can assess the situation and determine a plan of action to update the necessary systems as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Consider running a simulation of what would happen in the event of an EHR downtime to train employees on how to deal with the situation, and see how effective your procedures are. It’s always a good idea to know that you have the right procedures in place, and that they work. Repeat these checks regularly to ensure they are up to date and that new staff are trained in case downtime occurs.
Benefits of Having an IT Company Look After Your EHR System
Having an IT company in charge of your EHR and the general computer system is a good way to stay on top of your IT needs, as there are benefits in addition to ensuring that your systems are up to date with maintenance and security. A good IT service will receive automatic updates when a breach occurs, meaning that they can assess the situation quickly, and resolve any problems before they affect the company.
As all healthcare practices know and consider, documents containing sensitive data should be protected at every cost, for the sake of the practice as well as the patients. Preparation is key to preventing, or in the least, knowing what to do in the case of a disaster.