Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

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Health IT systems vulnerable to server failures, study reveals

Server reliability is the next big vulnerability for electronic health records, according to a new report from Forrester Research Inc. Three-quarters of the 102 health IT professionals surveyed said they experienced downtime related to a server failure during the past two years. In two-thirds of those cases, there was an impact on clinical services. Half of the cases affected administrative processes.

The Veterans Affairs Department also has been burned by outages. The VA's inspector general published a critical report in December 2009 noting that patient care was compromised during a 23-hour outage of the electronic health records system in a VA care facility in Texas.

While the Obama administration begins to distribute $17 billion to doctors and hospitals that adopt and "meaningfully use" electronic record systems, more attention needs to be paid to server availability, according to the researchers.

“While respondents reported widespread impact of server failures on the providers’ clinical activities, problems persist and current strategies are not adequate to ensure the appropriate levels of system reliability," the report said, adding that "fewer than half of IT professionals think that their server infrastructure is ready to meet the current and future needs of their institution.”.

Not surprisingly, cost is the big barrier. As the providers pay for new systems, they do not always go the extra mile to ensure server availability.

Forrester advises providers to develop a strategy for server availability and to factor in the true costs of downtime.

“When systems go down, it significantly impacts their business and the quality-of-care delivery. It’s critical to factor this reality into the real cost of server infrastructure, and recognize that the cheapest availability solution may not be the most cost-effective, even in the short term,” the report advises.

Posted by Alice Lipowicz on Feb 18, 2010 at 12:14 PM


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