March 2019
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How Cloud Computing in healthcare can serve disaster response in Kerala

There are many ways to protect and back up data in the event of a disaster

There are many ways to protect and back up data in the event of a natural disaster

ICTpost eHealth Bureau

The Indian state of Kerala has been devastated by severe floods. More than 350 people have died, while more than a million have been evacuated to over 4,000 relief camps. Tens of thousands remain stranded. The floods have been described as “the worst in 100 years” by Kerala state’s chief minister.

Natural disasters provide an absolute reminder that medical imaging providers need to have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that accounts for data protection, as well as allowing operations to continue at the highest level allowed by the situation.

As far as protecting data, in recent years, more facilities are turning towards virtualization and cloud data storage. The adoption of cloud computing in India is witnessing a strong growth and the rate of adoption has witnessed a growth of around 25%. The Vmware and Forrester study also said that 54% of senior IT professionals surveyed in India consider cloud computing as a top business priority. There has also been an improvement in the understanding of cloud computing with 72% of respondents claiming a good understanding about the technology.

Typically, the top reasons for healthcare enterprises to turn to the cloud, where patient images and other data are archived on outside servers, and other offsite data strategies, have been the potential benefits in cost reduction and the flexibility that comes with expanded access. It is important for facilities to know the strengths and weaknesses of their local PACS or offsite data storage system. In the film era, in the event of a power outage, there were hard copies of images.

It doesn’t take a devastating earthquake to disrupt normal workflow; sometimes it can be a more common occurrence like a heavy snowstorm and floods.  In the recent Uttarakhand disaster, we have seen that the rural practice serves a number of facilities that are a significant distance from the larger metro areas, which could have been a problem when the region was hit by a “crippling” blizzard.

Highways were devastated during floods in Kerala. In such a situation, Cloud technology enables hospitals to provide a continuum of care to the rural hospitals that we cover.

Not every Indian organization is ready to jump headfirst into the cloud. While some large industries with a single core competency may see great cost-benefits with cloud storage, a healthcare enterprise consists of dozens of departments with different needs. There are many ways to protect and back up data in the event of a disaster. If a facility has only a single data center, it can include servers with dual power supplies, dual CPUs and dual net cards to maximize uptimes. Enterprises can use multiple storage area networks (SANs), with each performing different roles.

Prior planning is essential in creating disaster recovery plans. For example, with Hurricane Irene bearing down on the Northeast America in August, hopitals’staff met daily to discuss preparations. They had previously established three remote geo-clustered data centers to back up data and minimize the risk of data loss, and in advance of Irene, they created a mini command center, where they could address any issues that might arise.

Disaster planning also includes workflow and contingency plans for staff. Everyone from radiologists to nursing assistants needs to know his or her role. A facility needs to know how it will transport patient data in the event of evacuations, and have a plan for all types of interruptions, even if it’s simply unscheduled downtime for email services.

Healthcare IT departments should formulate a vision ahead of time, and know its limitations. Budgets are a concern and small community hospitals may not be able to afford a high-availability, fully redundant, geo-clustered data center. Organizations should define their needs. Put the plan in place. Talk to the leadership. Get the board onboard.