Last updated on June 20th, 2023 at 09:52 am
In a competitive healthcare landscape, downtime in an organization’s Electronic Health Records (EHR) can lead to costly delays and mounting frustration for patients, staff, and administrators alike. As such, the numerous advantages of maintaining a seamless EHR system far outweigh the costs and inconveniences associated with recurrent downtimes.
These benefits include enhanced patient satisfaction, amplified employee efficiency, and real-time access to accurate medical records. Additionally, a well-functioning EHR system bolsters data security measures and minimizes liability risks while ensuring consistent accessibility, particularly when life-saving information exchange relies on timely delivery.
Given the significance of these benefits, it’s imperative to establish reliable processes for your EHR operations. However, this is not a task you can tackle alone. Enlisting the expertise of the best Healthcare IT consulting services is essential for guiding you through the crucial steps outlined below.
- Defining Downtime And Its Causes
Downtime occurs when your organization’s EHR systems experience periods of reduced efficiency or even complete failure. There are several reasons why this might happen, including the following:
- Software Failure
Malfunctioning software is often the cause behind unexpected EHR downtimes. Faulty coding leads to errors that could crash applications or entire servers altogether. There also exist potential risks associated with outdated versions not receiving regular patches.
They become vulnerable to malicious attacks, resulting in further issues such as data losses and security breaches. This is especially true if old legacy codebases remain active on these infrastructure stacks.
- Hardware Issues
Sometimes hardware components within a server rack may malfunction or fail. They leave the system unable to function as expected, leading to downtime. These issues may be due to failing hard drives or processors not performing optimally. This is mainly due to overheating and other similar issues related to physical components within an environment.
- Power Outages
If power supplies are affected, regionally or on-site, there’s always the potential for disruption in services rendered via EHR systems. Such events can also lead to these applications going offline, even if hosted externally, like in cloud-based setups.
- Network Issues
Poor network performance may affect data transfer speeds between remote locations or servers hosting different parts of an application. This reduces efficiency and may result in downtimes if the underlying infrastructure fails altogether. This can happen during peak hours when usage demand increases significantly than expected.
- User Error
The last reason involves users inputting incorrect information into their database during routine updates. This could lead to patients ‘ vital information being recorded inaccurately or become missing altogether.
Common causes of these problems include a lack of proper maintenance and a high workload on existing resources. With this understanding of what causes downtimes in your EHR system, you can now create and implement some preventive measures.
- Establish A Plan For Backup Power Sources
Having backup power sources is essential to preventing EHR system downtime during power outages. The plan has to include in-house solutions like uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), generators, and batteries. In addition, you’ll need to have hardware components like servers with redundant disk drives stored offsite. This offers an additional advantage, as backup components seamlessly take over when one area of your operations experiences a power outage, ensuring no interruption in service.
- Develop Robust System Architecture And Security Protocols
To maintain the highest levels of system performance and security, you need an efficient EHR architecture. Investing in high-quality hardware resources like servers and routers will go a long way toward minimizing any potential downtime.
You’ll also need a secure firewall and multiple layers of authentication protocols to protect against malicious cyber threats. Solutions such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or biometric identification are helpful in such applications. Strong encryption methods like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit for sensitive data transmission also prevent unauthorized access. They also ensure compliance with regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Establish A Regular Maintenance Schedule
Implementing regular maintenance checks on hardware components and software applications can help you identify potential issues before they cause downtime. These checks include running diagnostics tests on servers and computers and checking backups are working properly. Allowing your IT staff members enough time and providing the resources to perform these tasks is vital in this step. They’ll have an easy time discovering errors early and quickly resolving them.
- Use Cloud Solutions And Automation Tools To Monitor System Performance
Cloud solutions provide improved scalability compared to traditional systems. They have more storage capacity when needed without you investing additional equipment upfront. Furthermore, cloud-based monitoring tools offer real-time insights into your system’s performance.
You can take proactive measures if there’s an issue you detect. For instance, you can deploy patches or updates automatically and save valuable time. Automation services also allow you to automate mundane processes and free up resources.
- Establish A Contingency Plan And Make Sure It’s Updated
A disaster recovery plan (DRP) will help your organization respond quickly whenever there’s an issue. With it, personnel managing operations at your healthcare organization can plan and react appropriately if something goes wrong.
This process involves designing detailed instructions outlining procedures to restore data quickly without compromising patient safety. In essence, having such guidelines eliminates guesswork and helps maintain continuity in care delivery, even under stressful conditions.
- Regularly Train Staff On Best Practices
You also need an effective training program on best practices for using an EHR system for users and technicians. Training your staff is essential to make sure they know what they’re supposed to be doing and why it matters.
This includes understanding how certain activities, like backups, patching, and updating, can prevent downtime. The more knowledgeable your team members are, the better their chances of preventing and identifying root causes faster. Your EHR platform will run smoothly without any unexpected issues from user error or lack of knowledge about its functions.
The training program also needs to teach specific steps that staff can take during different scenarios. You’ll be equipping them to reduce the impact of any potential outages that do occur. Such actions include what type of response the team needs mobilizing.
You’ll also need to go further and provide a way for employees to contact IT support in emergencies. This will enable them to access help as soon as possible, reducing response times significantly. Having these details sorted out beforehand drastically minimizes downtime and losses associated with any incident.
- Update Your System Regularly With Latest Patches And Updates
Software updates provide necessary bug fixes. On the other hand, security patches improve performance and reduce the chances of technical glitches. To avoid unforeseen errors impacting your system’s performance, thoroughly test these updates before deploying them in a live environment. For instance, you need to look out for blunders caused by compatibility issues.
- Utilize Dedicated Support Services For Troubleshooting And Resolution
Last but not least, consider leveraging external IT support services if you can’t handle the task in-house. This may be due to a lack of personnel or other technical constraints limiting your ability to address problems quickly.
Outsourcing services can help maintain the highest levels of system uptime. This is because experienced engineers and technicians who deal with EHR downtime issues can solve problems quickly and efficiently. Primarily, they specialize in system maintenance, data backups, troubleshooting issues, and remote monitoring capabilities. This allows them to monitor operations from afar and detect potential threats.
You can also ensure minimal disruption for users by having dedicated support teams available around the clock. Having such services in place allows you to rest easy. You’ll always know that you have experts who can resolve any issue and eliminate negative impacts on your operations.
Downtimes can have detrimental effects on your healthcare institution, and you need to avoid them at all costs. However, it’s not always easy to do, given the complexity of modern EHR systems. These steps provide a comprehensive approach to this, ensuring the highest levels of reliability while maintaining compliance with industry regulations. Your patients will receive quality care without disruption, and you’ll improve their overall health outcomes considerably.