Securing Your Business: Disaster recovery – do you need backup or a business continuity plan?

bouncer-blogAs an MSP specializing in healthcare and security, StratX IT Solutions is often asked,

“Is there a difference between backup and business continuity plans for disaster recovery?”

Many believe that data backup and business continuity plans are one in the same but they are not! One allows you to recover your files, and the other enables you to continue operating your practice regardless of the severity of the outage or your physical location. They are complimentary solutions and you need both in order to secure the business of your practice.

With estimates that 70% of data outages are caused by human error (eg, opening emails with viruses*) and the Gartner Group study which predicts that 25% of PCs will fail each year, asking “IF” you need a disaster recovery plan for your systems has become moot. What is critical is “HOW”.

But let’s backup for a minute (bad pun intended). Let us explain what data backup and business continuity plans are, and what StratX recommends to our clients as the most failsafe combination.

It all starts with data backup. It is the foundation for disaster recovery and business continuity – no backup means no business continuity.

But, not all backup solutions are created equal.  Remember when tape backup was the only option? Data protection is a fast-evolving market, and solutions that were put in place a decade or so ago are no longer suited to meet today’s regulatory and requirements.

What is required is a robust, viable foundation for ensuring secure, HIPAA compliant data backup and retention. Backup products fall into three (3) basic categories:

  1. Onsite backup (data stored on hardware kept physically in your office)
  2. Cloud backup (data stored on hosted hardware via the internet)
  3. Hybrid onsite-cloud backup (combines the first two categories)

Onsite backup works well when a quick restore of lost or damaged files is required. The data is onsite and, it’s fast and easy to restore to its original location. But what happens if:

  • The power goes out?
  • If the device fails?
  • Or if the equipment is stolen or fails?

You might think the cloud looks more attractive due to onsite backup’s “what ifs,” but cloud-only backup is risky too.

  • What if you lose connectivity to the internet?
  • Restores tend to be difficult and time-consuming.
  • And, after all, the cloud can fail, too.

What is a hybrid onsite-cloud solution?

  • Your data is first copied and stored on a local device and your data is also replicated in the cloud.

StratX recommends that our clients purchase and use a hybrid onsite-cloud backup solution. By using onsite backup to mitigate the risks of the cloud, and using the cloud to mitigate the risks of onsite backup your data will be available to you in case of an emergency and allow you to put your business continuity plan into action.

Furthermore, we recommend our clients use a hybrid onsite-cloud solution which gives them the ability to work virtually. The backup contains full server images (vs. only files or data) which can be restored or activated as servers in a disaster and allow you to work as if the original servers were still functioning – this is where a business continuity plan comes into play.

Business continuity, the ability to keep daily operations running, isn’t a product that you purchase per se, it’s the action plan that is designed and managed by your IT staff or vendor.

The plan lays out how you will access your server, software, applications and data when disaster strikes and also sets a timeline to achieve that access. It should also have provisions to have your IT support continually test the process before you are faced with an issue. It’s better to troubleshoot failed “test” restorations than to lose days, weeks or even months reinstalling and configuring your systems.

The only safe way to head-off downtime of your systems, regardless of the cause, is to be informed and prepared. Do you have a clearly outlined plan in place for your practice?

It’s critical that you are prepared, ask your IT staff:

  • How quickly can my business be up and running in the event of disaster?
  • Do we have documented backup, security and a business continuity plan in place which meet our regulatory requirements?
  • Is all of our critical data backed up daily, or more frequently?
  • How fast can we get our systems up and running to a pre-disaster operating state?
  • Have we done a real world test our backup and business continuity plan?

 

Jack Mortell

SRSsoft guest blogger: Jack Mortell of StratX IT Solutions

* Print our “email safety guide” for your staff. It describes the key signs they should look for to identify and avoid opening malicious emails.

Frictionless Product Delivery

Khal Rai

Khal Rai

Senior Vice President, Development at SRS Health
Khal oversees the Software Engineering, Business Analysis, Quality Assurance, and Product Management teams at SRS. His 17+ years’ experience in software development and healthcare IT have resulted in a true passion for collaborating with customers, then translating their needs into innovative solutions and better service experiences. He believes that motivated employees and satisfied customers are keys to maintaining business success. He has a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.
Khal Rai

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upgradeWhat if I told you that software deployment could be simple? You’d likely accuse me of smuggling Kahlua into my morning coffee. It seems like only yesterday that installations required CDs and that every workstation needed hands-on attention. Once you got to a particular unit, you would be greeted with an array of screens and prompts that could conceivably require hours of monitoring. Allow me to assure you that those days are over!

The term “innovation” is usually applied only to product development, but at SRS, we have pushed this approach to all facets of what we do, including procedures and processes. One of our many innovations this year has been the incorporation of a software deployment tool, which silently installs applications without user interaction.

While I would love to take all of the credit for this major advancement, I can’t. We first heard about it during our IT Round Table collaboration session at our User Summit last year when we were discussing the tools IT professionals use for software, patches, and file deployments across their infrastructure.  All were pleasantly surprised by the ease of use, consistency, reliability, and advanced options offered by this software deployment tool, and they all agreed that it was much more reliable than Group Policy deployments and other well-known software deployment tools on the market. We took this feedback and did our homework.

How does this Software Deployment Tool benefit you?

  • Quick and easy deployments – only one resource needed to create and deploy a package across multiple sites without any user interaction
  • Deployments scheduled at your convenience
  • Detailed report provided in real time during and after the deployment is completed
  • No prior technical knowledge required

In some cases, the workstation deployment time of an SRS upgrade has been reduced from 3.5 hours to 20 minutes. That is an outstanding 90% improvement! A simple adjustment to your process can have a dramatic impact on both the time and cost spent in the deployment process.

You must be wondering, “There has to be a catch!” I assure you, there isn’t! Perhaps the best part is that there’s no need to review a complex manual. At SRS, we provide training and testing, and have confirmed that non-technical users can configure the deployment and re-use it without our assistance—it’s that easy!

Whether your focus is software development or deployment, or sales or marketing, innovation designed to remove friction will always lead to increased efficiencies and better results!

The Right Tools for Relevant Results

Adam Curran

Adam Curran

Product Marketing Manager at SRS Health
Adam Curran is a Product Marketing Manager at SRS. He oversees marketing intelligence to support the development of strategic marketing plans. Prior to joining the organization, he was a key member of a pharmaceutical software company’s Clinical Development Business Unit, specializing in the clinical data management elements of the drug development lifecycle. He was also the editor for their microsite’s blog. Adam has also held roles at the UK’s National Energy Foundation and Skills Funding Agency.
Adam Curran

surgical-tools-315pxThere is discussion in the industry about the effectiveness of healthcare information technology (HCIT) solutions. And so there should be; although we have seen improvements in HCIT solutions, a significant number of physicians are not happy with their current systems. Perhaps it is because some vendors feel that they know what’s better for their practice, and build the system around their vision at the expense of how the doctor likes to do things. Or maybe it’s because vendors sell practices solutions that aren’t specialized to their requirements—leading to complexity, fatigue and frustration. In either case, doctors are forced to use tools that are inappropriate to their needs and slow them down.

It’s not rocket science: doctors want tools that help them do their job effectively. Like the stethoscope—it’s one of the oldest medical tools still in use today, but it continues to perform an essential task, even in an era of high tech, and there is nothing complicated about it. Although it was originally invented to spare a young physician the embarrassment of putting his ear directly up against the chest of a young woman, it turned out to have enormous diagnostic value. Because of that, the stethoscope quickly caught on with other doctors.

Another good example is molecular breast imaging (MBI). Mammography was a good way to detect breast cancer, but MBI turns out to be three times more effective at finding tumors in dense breast tissue. MBI is simply a tool that has produced better results.

What about laser surgery? Developed at first for eye and skin surgery, it has expanded its range to include different medical and cosmetic procedures, from cosmetic dermatology to the removal of precancerous lesions. Laser surgery allows doctors to perform certain specific surgeries more safely and accurately—again, a new tool that provides better results.

When it comes to HCIT solutions, however, the reception has been decidedly less enthusiastic. Maybe that’s because, in contrast to the examples above, it hasn’t been clear what the purpose of HCIT solutions actually were. To help doctors collect data on patients, or to help administrators collect data on doctors? To make practices more efficient, or to simplify the government’s monitoring of public health? Without a clear task to perform, it’s not surprising that HCIT solutions have produced mixed results. It’s hard to assess the value of a tool when you aren’t sure what it is supposed to do.

It turns out that, like the stethoscope, electronic health record solutions were a tool designed for extra-diagnostic reasons, and then later repurposed. However unlike the stethoscope, the adoption of EHRs has been driven not by doctors who found them helpful, but by hospitals, insurance plans, and government agencies who sought to control skyrocketing costs and standardize healthcare. This disparity has been an underlying cause for ineffective workflows within the systems. And even when EHRs were designed with physicians in mind, they were designed for primary care physicians, leaving the specialist community underserved.

What is clear is that, when an HCIT solution is designed with the primary purpose of helping doctors, the industry does see value in them. According to the latest Black Book survey of specialty-driven EHRs, 80% of practices with specialty-distinctive EHRs affirm their confidence in their systems. The same survey reported that satisfaction among users who had switched to specialty-driven EHRs has shot up to 80%. And finally, 86% of specialists agreed that the biggest trend in technology replacements is specialty-driven EHRs due to specialist workflow and productivity complications.

The statistics show what we already knew; doctors want the technology and tools that give them relevant results. Like earlier great medical inventions, HCIT can play a vital role too. One positive development is that EHRs, like the lasers used in surgeries, have evolved to serve a variety of specific purposes. Just as there isn’t a single type of laser that is used by both ophthalmologists and dermatologists, EHRs are increasingly specialty specific.

This means that specialists are no longer forced to use systems designed for primary care physicians that collect every piece of data that every type of doctor might possibly need. That sort of all-inclusive data collection doesn’t lead to better results; if anything, too much data causes unnecessary clutter, making analysis more difficult. What is crucial is having more RELEVANT data. Specialists need EHRs that collect the data that is relevant to them, and only the data that is relevant to them. They need an HCIT solution that is driven by their specialty, that respects their workflow, and that has the flexibility to handle their practice’s unique requirements.

To find out more about developments in HCIT solutions that are improving patient care, check out our latest whitepaper, “Healthcare: How Moving from Paperless to Frictionless is Improving Patient Care”.

The ABCs of APIs

Ryan Newsome

Ryan Newsome

Vice President of Software Engineering at SRS Health
Prior to joining SRS almost 10 years ago, Ryan started his career as a software engineer for Map Info/Pitney Bowes. Throughout the years Ryan has been an expert in all things web, interoperability, and in agile leadership. He currently oversees all of product engineering at SRS and has led SRS’ transition to an Agile/Scrum Development Methodology. In his free time, you can find Ryan either skiing, cycling or spending time with his family. Fun Fact: Ryan played Division 1 Soccer at Sienna where he attended on a scholarship. Goal!
Ryan Newsome

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APIIt seem that everywhere you look in today’s tech industry, you hear the term APIs, and healthcare IT is no exception. Healthcare has recently joined the frenzy by promoting emerging interoperability standards like FHIR. Regulators believe that APIs will support this interoperability so much that APIs are included in meaningful use Stage 3. So, you might now be asking, what are APIs, and why are they so important?

In the simplest terms, APIs are a doorways that allow developers to create bridges between different applications. API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are sets of rules that govern how one application can communicate with another. APIs do all this by “exposing” some of a program’s internal functions to the other developers in a limited capacity. This makes it possible for products to share data and take actions on one another’s behalf without requiring developers to share all of their software product’s code.

APIs have been around for decades, so why all of the publicity now? Over the last 10 years companies have started to make their APIs publically available, which has been a catalyst for the spin-off of new business models, innovative solutions, distribution channels, and synergies between business partnerships.

A recent example of this can be found with your smart phones. What do you think fueled the recent app revolution? If companies like Apple and Google did not provide APIs, app developers would not be able to use the functionality found on your phone. Ever wonder how SnapChat has access to your phone’s camera? You guessed it, APIs!

In the end, APIs are a wonderful tool that provides you with flexibility and complete control over your healthcare IT ecosystem.

Now that you know a bit about APIs, how do you see your organization leveraging them in the future?

OBSERVATIONS FROM AAOE 2016

Scott Ciccarelli

Scott Ciccarelli

CEO at SRS Health
Scott Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer at SRS, has more than 20 years of diverse management and operations experience garnered as a senior executive at GE, where he headed two of the company’s businesses—most recently, GE Healthcare’s Services, Ambulatory and Revenue Cycle Solutions. His areas of expertise include business strategy, leadership development, operational rigor (Lean Six Sigma), and the delivery of enhanced value for customers through quality improvement and innovation.
Scott Ciccarelli

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alcatrazAAOE was nothing short of amazing—and not just because the show took place in beautiful San Francisco. In fact, what happened inside the expo halls rivaled many of the sights of the City by the Bay.

As always, attendees were excited about the opportunity to network, learn from industry experts, and be inspired by the keynote speakers. The exhibit hall was crowded, giving us a chance to meet new AAOE members along with spending time with old friends and valued clients. The majority of orthopaedic executives we spoke with were concerned with the same challenges: How do they

  • remain profitable in a value-based world?
  • collect more data without being slowed down?
  • unravel the complexities of regulatory compliance?
  • demonstrate the value of their services through analytics and outcomes?

This made the introduction of our new patent-pending Smart WorkflowsTM Data Platform a big hit. More than simply our latest release, this revolutionary technology helps high-volume specialists bust out of the cage of traditional data capture and practice medicine the way they believe is best. For some, that is as liberating as escaping from Alcatraz itself.

How can an HCIT solution provide such freedom? By putting specialists back in charge of the data capture process instead of allowing them be held hostage by it.  The Smart Workflows Data Platform is designed to capture relevant data at the point of care—based on role, specialty, or practice requirements. In other words, it lets the specialists decide when, where, and by whom data should be collected. The result? Dramatic increases in productivity and efficiency, and an enhanced ability to focus on patient care rather than data input. In addition, Smart Workflows gives specialists the power to determine exactly which discrete data points are relevant to their practice, and to change those data points if and when desired. This eliminates the risks of being locked into one system in a constantly changing regulatory and compliance landscape.

Orthopaedists at AAOE didn’t have to take our word for it—as they visited our booth, they saw first-hand the difference Smart Workflows can make in their practices, and it felt good to see the reactions of physicians and executives as they learned more about Smart Workflows. The platform is the first major achievement of our client-collaborative development process, which makes it a significant leap forward, but it’s also just another step by SRS in helping to prepare our clients for success, both now and in the future.

Of course, we are more than just a technology company, as many AAOE attendees learned when they heard our own Lynn Scheps unravel the complexities of MACRA/MIPS. One of the foremost experts in the industry, Lynn is constantly diving into the ever-changing rules surrounding compliance. Her knowledge helps inform our updates from a regulatory standpoint, and she also provides our clients the human guidance they need to ensure their compliance.

A lot has happened since my last blog post. At AAOE, we were finally able to share the latest breakthrough innovation we’ve been alluding to for months. I was truly proud to unveil our Smart Workflows Data Capture Platform. I hope that, like a lot of the AAOE attendees who stopped by our booth, you are ready to unshackle yourself from the cognitive-data burden that has been dragging you down and coming between you and your patients. If so, we’ve got the key

Free-Flow Workflow: How Did This Help with Data Collection?

Adam Curran

Adam Curran

Product Marketing Manager at SRS Health
Adam Curran is a Product Marketing Manager at SRS. He oversees marketing intelligence to support the development of strategic marketing plans. Prior to joining the organization, he was a key member of a pharmaceutical software company’s Clinical Development Business Unit, specializing in the clinical data management elements of the drug development lifecycle. He was also the editor for their microsite’s blog. Adam has also held roles at the UK’s National Energy Foundation and Skills Funding Agency.
Adam Curran

data-flow“Being flooded with information doesn’t mean we have the right information or that we’re in touch with the right people” – Bill Gates

We are able to collect a wealth of information today, thanks to technological improvements over the last couple of years. For a long time, specialists struggled to get the most out of earlier EHR solutions due to the limited data available. This was not so much the fault of EHR vendors but rather of the inherent limitations of the technology at the time. Additionally, the first “templated” EHR systems were specifically designed for primary care and family practice doctors. These systems were not suitable to meet specialists’ different data needs and handle a much higher volume. I did a post recently on the evolution of data capture (read it here).

When it comes to submitting meaningful use data to CMS, however, with all this data available, identifying and collecting it generally takes a long time. There are studies that show an increase in the number of physicians who spend more than one day a week on paperwork, and that indicate many physicians still feel that EHRs do not save time. Although this technology is allowing practices to comply with meaningful use requirements, the cost seems to be too high.

What are we seeing here? Physicians are spending more time capturing data due to regulations, and this is taking up the time available to see patients. How did we get to a point where the physician is spending more time staring at the screen than looking at the patient? I’m not a doctor, but I can imagine that they went into the profession to actually help people as much as they can, so more face-to-face time with the patient is the end goal here.

What is the solution to handling this volume of data? Certainly not reducing the amount of data—it would be hard and time-consuming to distinguish which data to get rid of. The solution must focus on making it quicker to handle this data. This is where free-flow workflow comes into play. Rather than having to go through the laborious process of submitting the data to each application, it essentially reduced the repetitive steps involved, thereby streamlining the submission of data.

This big time saver helps to alleviate the pain, but there are still limitations. Fortunately, we are now at a point where we can get a workflow that isn’t just free-flow, but also adaptive. To find out more about this development and other future trends, you can read our white paper.