How hospitals and healthcare networks can eliminate interruptions and downtime

Updated on January 7, 2021

The mere prospect of an electronic healthcare record (EHR) system downtime (whether planned or unplanned) can wreak havoc on health institutions. Because healthcare systems connect the data center to end users, any unnecessary downtime translates to a growing number of unproductive and thumb-twiddling staff members, as you frantically scramble around-the-clock to fix the system. 

While resorting to pen-to-paper methods might be your fall-back plan, this traditional system may lead to costly liability issues that include patient misidentification, rescheduling of appointments, poor communication, and slow delivery of services.

Beyond the above challenges, a network outage can lead to a mind-boggling loss of revenue. Typically, small to medium-sized businesses lose between $137 and $427 during unexpected bouts of server downtime. For healthcare institutions, it’s not only the hospital’s bottom line at stake but peoples’ lives as well. That said, IT managers in hospitals should have their eyes peeled for the below strategies to reduce network downtime.

How to reduce IT downtime

There are many reasons why systems fail: power outage, human errors, data breaches and ransomware, hardware failure, and natural disasters. While no system will guarantee zero percent downtime, there are techniques and technologies you can deploy to minimize IT outages significantly.

Partnering with reliable vendors

Hospitals and significant healthcare networks have incredibly complex internal systems, so server downtime/interruptions can critically hamper operations. Depending on the situation, it may even endanger lives if critical systems go down. That’s why partnering with a pro like SUSE to achieve nonstop IT (no interruptions/downtime) is so valuable.

Furthermore, check the service level agreements (SLAs) of key partners to establish their level of availability and competence and whether their terms suit your business needs. It’s critical to achieve “the five nines” (99.999 percent server uptime) in a hospital, but you can’t accomplish this “IT Nirvana” with SLAs guaranteeing only 90 percent uptime.

Since a robust server uptime is the lifeblood of an effective healthcare system, achieving nonstop IT requires high-availability solutions that enable updating systems to respond to market dynamics without interrupting operations.

The basics: system maintenance

It might sound like a cliché, but system maintenance is a no brainer if you want reduced downtime. Therefore, your IT manager should regularly check your system for the below issues:

Backup system

Your backup system is your plan B in case your servers go down. When your network is compromised or disrupted, you can quickly go back online by calling in your backup. To cover your bases and extinguish fires before they ignite, regularly inspect your physical and virtual backup systems and test their abilities to restore data in a pinch.

The ability to promptly recover data assets maximizes revenue and improves service delivery. Additionally, mitigating data loss is essential in maintaining customer trust that’s critical in sectors like healthcare. Fortunately, with high availability clustering, data recovery is automated, anticipating potential points of failure proactively and optimizing server uptime.

Monitor your devices

Frequently monitor your systems to identify potential red flags ahead of time. Network monitoring solutions alert you when your network experiences challenges like high memory usage, unexpected system reboot, and so forth. Additionally, inspect your switches, firewalls, and workstations to ensure that they are working as they should.

Update your devices frequently

To maintain your systems’ health, integrity, security, and stability, it’s paramount that users update and install patches for their operating systems and other applications. While you can perform these tasks routinely, be wary of potential disruptions that can interfere with operations and render this maintenance counterproductive.

Fortunately, healthcare sector leaders can rely on tech pros like SUSE to deter troublesome manual patching errors. These system types facilitate optimal efficiency by scheduling updates and patching when critical systems aren’t running up to speed. 

An added plus is that systems such as these allow IT professionals in the healthcare sector to fix and update systems while running, eliminating the need to reboot systems, thus ensuring business continuity.

Deploy load balancing and utilize scalable infrastructures

Systems in the healthcare industry are not only critical but sophisticated. With this in mind, servers can easily be overworked. To tackle this challenge, deploy multiple servers to avoid system overload at all costs. Load balancing means that when one node is not available (for instance, when executing various actions on a file), the other nodes can perform new requests, lending to fast and proficient business operations.

By installing scalable infrastructure, you will reap loads of dividends because the systems will aptly accommodate your organization’s growth and increased demand for IT.

How should hospitals react to server downtime?

The first and critical step in mitigating network challenges and ensuring a smooth recovery during a system breakdown is the inclusion of downtime in the hospital’s continuity of operations plan. Given that healthcare systems are increasingly becoming techy, hospitals need to verse themselves in adverse downtime effects that can disrupt operations. Once familiarized, devising recovery plans to cushion the blow of unexpected server downtime will be a natural next step. 

A downtime incident response plan helps alleviate confusion and frustrations among staff during an outage. In these cases, a team carries out a standardized approach to delivering services with or without the system. This way, healthcare institutions are not caught flatfooted whenever systems go kaput.

To conclude

When they say “time is money,” it’s not for nothing. In IT, when systems go down, costs go up. Billions of dollars are lost every year due to system downtime. And for the healthcare system, the downside effects of network downtime can’t be overstated. From limited access to patient data, staff frustrations to delayed service delivery, network failures in hospitals result in catastrophic effects.

Systems are only useful when in use. If a server is perennially down, it might as well not have existed. That said, prominent forces in the healthcare system will need to act with haste. In hospitals, delivering a nonstop IT means that you can trust your system to provide uninterrupted services, taking patient’s customer service to new heights. Again, achieving competitive server uptime translates to reduced admin and server-related costs, along with highly responsive systems—reaffirming its importance.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.