How Business Continuity Planning Helps Healthcare Organizations Save Lives

Img blog How Business Continuity Planning Helps Healthcare Organizations Save Lives
In the healthcare industry, a second of downtime could spell the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, natural disasters, cyberattacks, power outages, and disease outbreaks can all disrupt the crucial services provided by healthcare organizations. The only solution to these problems is a business continuity plan.

Why is business continuity planning vital for healthcare organizations?

A business continuity plan outlines the processes and procedures to be followed in order to mitigate risks and ensure continuous operation during a crisis. Within the context of healthcare IT, a business continuity plan is focused on making sure that essential data and systems remain accessible and functional during emergencies. Here are some key reasons why this is so important for healthcare organizations.
  • Patient care – Healthcare’s primary focus is always on patient care. Any interruption in services, whether due to natural disasters, cyberattacks, or other unforeseen events, can directly affect patient’s lives. A business continuity plan ensures that essential medical services continue in the face of such disruptions, guaranteeing that patients receive uninterrupted care.
  • Communication – When any established system fails, coordination and communication become critical. Business continuity planning puts protocols in place for effective communication between healthcare professionals, patients, and other stakeholders during a crisis to keep everyone on the same page and reduce misunderstandings
  • Reputation management – A major crisis or outage can significantly damage the reputation of a healthcare organization. Being fully prepared for any downtime incident can help maintain patient trust and confidence in the organization.
  • Legal and regulatory compliance – Healthcare organizations are subject to strict legal and regulatory requirements, especially when it comes to data protection and patient privacy. Business continuity planning helps healthcare organizations protect the integrity and availability of sensitive information, ensuring compliance with the necessary regulations.

How can healthcare organizations ensure business continuity?

There are several key steps that healthcare organizations can take to ensure business continuity during emergencies or disasters:

Risk assessments

Healthcare organizations must evaluate the likelihood and impact of various threats to their operations. For instance, a hospital located in a hurricane-prone area will have a different set of risks than one located in an earthquake-prone zone, necessitating different strategies.

Risk assessments are also an opportunity to evaluate the company’s security vulnerabilities, such as outdated technology, lack of redundancy in critical systems, and insufficient staff training. Identifying these gaps early makes it easier to formulate effective mitigation strategies and prioritize resources.

Data backups

When data loss occurs as a result of equipment failure, cyberattacks, and natural disasters, complications with business operations and patient care inevitably follow. Organizations will also have to spend countless hours and resources to recover what was lost, which could be a matter of life and death in a healthcare setting.

Regular data backups are therefore an essential part of any business continuity plan. This involves routinely storing critical data in multiple locations, such as on-premises and off-site servers or the cloud. This way, even if one location is compromised, the data can still be accessed from another source.

Failover systems and redundancies

Having redundant systems and failover mechanisms in place is crucial for maintaining continuity in a healthcare organization during a disaster. Backup generators, in particular, are critical for keeping medical equipment and services operational in case of power outages.

Additionally, organizations should consider setting up multiple network connections and communication channels to ensure that critical data and information can still be accessed even if one connection goes down.

In cases where healthcare organizations absolutely cannot operate out of their primary facility, temporary sites can be set up to continue providing critical services. These temporary facilities should have access to the necessary IT equipment (e.g., hotspots, laptops, etc.) as well as any medical devices and supplies required to provide patient care.

Disaster recovery plans

A disaster recovery plan for healthcare organizations is a comprehensive strategy for restoring critical services in the event of a disruption. This plan specifies what actions employees should take during various scenarios, whether it’s natural disasters, cyberattacks, or pandemics. It lays out data recovery protocols as well as a priority list of systems, equipment, and facilities to be restored. The plan also details which departments and teams are responsible for executing specific tasks and includes contact information for emergency responders, vendors, and other stakeholders.

Resiliency tests

Regular business continuity stress tests help healthcare organizations identify weaknesses in their plans and make necessary adjustments. These tests take a holistic approach, simulating various disaster scenarios and evaluating the company’s response from a business and technical standpoint. By running these tests, organizations can continuously improve their plans and be better prepared for any potential disruptions.

Maintaining business continuity is no easy feat for healthcare organizations, but they don’t have to face it alone. Business continuity specialists such as Varsity Tech can help healthcare organizations develop robust plans to prepare for any eventuality. Give us a call today to keep your business running no matter what.