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Business continuity in healthcare – how to protect your data

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Business continuity is essential for all organisations, in any industry. However, in healthcare business continuity arguably has a much higher level of urgency given that life and death decisions could be involved if data is unable to get to where it is needed. Maintaining real-time continuity of patient information is vital.

The impact of system downtime in healthcare

Most health and care organisations will have at their core, a Patient Administration System (PAS) which automates the administration and paperwork involved in registering patients, managing appointments, tracking ward admissions and discharge summaries. A second piece of IT that is core to healthcare is the integration engine.

When the PAS and the integration engine work together, patient data feeds downstream to multiple other IT systems such as pathology, radiology and electronic prescribing, providing the right information the clinician needs in order to provide safe and effective care. This relationship also ensures that all systems hold the correct version (PAS version) of a patient’s data which prevents transcription errors and data quality issues. It is this flow of data which needs to be protected in a healthcare business continuity plan.

Legacy healthcare systems generate legacy processes

When the PAS at Derby Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust suffered outages, the screens, processes and normal flow of messages were no longer available. Staff reverted to a manual backup process, documenting patient information on paper records. This was open to error from a potential loss of data and inaccurate rekeying of patient details when the PAS was back online.

Paper-based processes also introduce a risk to patient safety and clinical decisions from accurate and timely data being unavailable where it is needed, at the time care is given. In the current climate, paper records also carry a high infection risk as seen at Bedford Hospital NHS Trust where data sharing has been automated to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

IMX Interoperability Matrix – a flexible PAS backup plan

Despite the clinical risk involved in not being able to access and update patient records in the event of a PAS outage, the answer is not a multimillion-pound replacement. If your PAS works and clinicians are familiar with it, using an interoperable clinical record like IMX for business continuity, could be an effective and affordable solution.

The IMX Clinical Record is configurable as a business continuity solution for your exact requirements. At Derby, it was used as a data repository with a frontend user interface to mimic the PAS. Known as the ‘PAS Mirror’, the IMX platform essentially kicks in as soon as the PAS is unavailable, precisely replicating the data entry and message transactions usually performed by the PAS.

As IMX is fully interoperable with any other system, information continues to flow downstream. Staff and clinicians can continue working as normal, ensuring the continuity and accuracy of data sharing and removing risk from paper-based processes. The IMX Clinical Record can be deployed in as little as 8 weeks, without the significant investment and resource involved in PAS/EPR procurements so you’ll reduce clinical risk and ensure patient safety, quickly.

Futureproof your business continuity

Whilst there are many practical benefits of using IMX as backup to your PAS, its modularity is key to futureproofing your data sharing requirements.

At its core, the IMX is flexible and scalable which means you can add clinical programmes easily, at your own speed – it is designed to build interoperable digital care incrementally. At Derby Hospital, following the PAS mirror development, emergency care was added to the solution to better track patients during a system outage. Data continues to be shared and the quality improves, without the reliance on paper-based backup.

Don’t forget support

If you’re considering a business continuity solution for your healthcare IT systems, it is essential to work with an expert who not only knows how to develop efficient failovers and data repositories but also provides integration, technical architecture and support. That way, you’ll be confident that the flow of your critical patient data is fully protected, across your whole organisation, 24/7.

Further information

Derby PAS Mirror case study
Bedford infection control case study

To discover how IMX could help your healthcare business continuity strategy talk to an expert today on 01392 363888 or email

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