Medical & Health care

Medical & Health care

Health care systems have to be designed to never go down, to accommodate fluctuating workloads and to meet a variety of other requirements peculiar to health care institutions.

Take the software systems away and you’d be left with a lot of dumb devices that cannot perform the life-saving functions for which they were designed.

The challenge for a health care CIO, as opposed to a typical business support CIO, is providing a 24/7, high-availability software system that can support the clinical requirements of the medical devices. A high-availability business system usually has maintenance windows. That would be a luxury for a high-availability health care system.

Healthcare IT looks beyond disaster recovery to high availability. "We need to try to move beyond mere disaster recovery," said Steve G. Langer, Ph.D., an associate professor of imaging physics and informatics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Simply being prepared for a disaster and having the ability to recover lost patient files does not take into account the cost to patient convenience and confidence, not to mention hospital efficiency, that other types of downtime such as scheduled outages entail, Langer said.

He described two different types of downtime: unscheduled outages that occur due to natural disasters or network attacks, and scheduled outages that occur due to routine network system maintenance and upgrades by the vendor. Most vendors do not count the second type of downtime against a contracted guaranteed amount of uptime, he said.

When charting system uptime and availability, measurements are counted by the "nines"
Citing the 2004 Meta Group, Langer said that scheduled downtime costs could amount to $142 per full-time employee per hour.

Hospitals should strive for four-nine (99.99%) availability and beyond.

High availability cluster can consist of dual-node active/passive clusters, dual-node active/active clusters, and load-balancing stateless clusters. Using a clustered computing methodology, hospitals can move away from a single point of failure bringing the entire facility down and toward a continuously available system.

Modernization trends in Medical & Health care
  • Diagnosis, treatment, surgery of patients remotely
  • Digitalization of medical records
  • Patient records and schedule handling through the software
  • Medical Report sharing with global medical specialists
  • Software driven medical systems
Challenges that came along with the Modernization
  • Achieving more than 99.9% availability of software systems
  • Medical systems prone to software faults and failures
  • Downtime because of planned (offline)upgrades
  • Achieving a fail-safe and safety critical systems
  • Application availability impacts medical system availability


UK's National Health Care System IT Failure

"UK NHS experienced a widespread IT failure that led to a complete medical service break down"

- Doctors were unable to access medical records of patients

- Patient's appointment and scheduling were unavailable

- Resulted in a backlog as patients couldn't be contacted to cancel appointments and notes couldn't be typed up and saved on NHS systems.

- Hardships for patients as well as doctors and medical staff.

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Electronic Health Records at 26 Hospitals Hit by Two-Hour Outage

Hospital operator Universal Health Services Inc. said electronic health records at 26 facilities were affected by technical problems at a data center run by Cerner Corp., an information technology company.

Universal, which manages more than 350 health-care facilities in the U.S. and U.K said that the problem lasted for less than two hours.

A Cerner system used by Abrazo Community Health Network in Phoenix experienced a multiday outage next week following a routine update, according to the publication Becker’s Hospital Review. It was claimed that this malfunction was unrelated to previous week’s outage in Arizona.


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