Prepare for battle: We’re heading into a downtime!

healthcare enterprise imaging

If you hear the term ‘downtime’ and think “Netflix® and chill,” you neither work in the healthcare sector nor are you familiar with Urban Dictionary’s definition of that particular phrase. For healthcare professionals, ‘downtime’ invokes a fear closely resembling the 1893 Edvard Munch painting, The Scream.

Fear of the unknown

Most of the time, healthcare organizations can plan and communicate their downtime windows far in advance. This helps reduce the fear by level-setting expectations for the planned outage.

The best planning for downtimes “includes mitigation strategies for eliminating or minimizing the possibility of such an event even occurring,” according to Ron Sterling, president of the consulting firm Sterling Solutions and author of Keys to EMR Success. “Avoiding downtime means that backup and redundancies should be built into the various components of the system.”

This is sound advice, but diligent planning is not always possible. Power outages, natural disasters and a decidedly unplanned cyber-attack will unexpectedly knock organizations offline. Sometimes the resulting downtime is a matter of hours – or it could be several weeks.

To help mitigate the fear of the unknown, healthcare organizations should have clearly defined and published downtime procedures. All staff should know the downtime procedures, including where to look to reference them if needed. Staff should also know how to transition to a downtime environment at a moment’s notice.

While vendors do provide downtime solutions for their electronic systems, these are usually a reference-only view of key parts of the system. If electronic documentation is not available, staff may need to fill out documentation the old-fashioned way: paper and pen.

This introduces a new set of challenges.

Write it down

Paper copies of forms should be readily available for staff to use during the downtime. The paper forms should be the most current version. Every time a change to the electronic system is made, the paper forms should be updated to reflect the change and redistributed throughout the organization. This ensures clinicians and staff capture the same information regardless of the media.

It is also important to remember that productivity may dip during a downtime.

In fact, “There are younger staff members who have never documented their notes on paper and will struggle as much using paper as your original staff did converting to electronic documentation,” notes HIMSS.

However, throughout the downtime, your level of care must remain unchanged.

Protect yourself

Although cyber-attacks are on the rise, there are ways organizations can protect themselves.

Keep an up-to-date inventory of all systems. Proactively monitor audit logs as well as upgrading and patching hardware and software systems to reduce security risks. But, the best advice for organizations is to establish downtime procedures and practice them – early and often. If possible, healthcare organizations should conduct quarterly downtime drills involving all staff.

And of course, make sure you have enough pens.

Working in the healthcare field for more than 16 years, Laura Pietromica has spent the past nine years with Hyland’s Healthcare division. Prior to joining Hyland, Laura was the lead system administrator responsible for overseeing the software platform used in all endoscopy departments at a large multidisciplinary academic medical center in the USA. Since joining Hyland, Laura shares her time working with customers to strategically plan projects, consult and develop long-term solution roadmaps. Laura has a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Ohio University is a HIMSS Analytics certified EMR Adoption Model educator and holds certificates in Document Imaging Architect (CDIA+) and Enterprise Content Management Practitioner (ECMp).
Laura Pietromica

Laura Pietromica

Working in the healthcare field for more than 16 years, Laura Pietromica has spent the past nine years with Hyland’s Healthcare division. Prior to joining Hyland, Laura was the lead... read more about: Laura Pietromica