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Implementing disaster avoidance (not recovery) in the U.K.

If there’s a power outage to the hospital’s main server room, bad things can happen to good people. Massive disruption can ensue for IT, clinicians and ultimately patients.

To help minimise the potential effects of server disruption, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (LHCH) (Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom) recently improved its approach to disaster recovery.

Taking a new approach

LHCH is a high-achieving specialist hospital that decided to transform from paper to electronic patient records (EPRs)*. Over the course of 14 months, the organisation completed an on-time, on-budget implementation of SunriseTM from Allscripts in 2013.

LHCH quickly recognised how valuable Sunrise clinical data was to the organisation’s daily workflow and asked the question, “How do we move from disaster recovery to disaster avoidance?”

Let’s go back to that disruptive power outage for a minute. In a typical hospital server environment, the organisation will likely have a back-up set of servers in case of a “failover” event. An IT employee has to manually recognise the problem, then push the correct buttons to send tasks to a redundant class of servers. It may only take 30 minutes, but that’s a long time for a nurse at the bedside trying to capture patient vital signs and documentation.

Now with the new configuration at LHCH, a third-party software package watches for failovers. If it detects a problem, it triggers an SQL Server availability group, automatically switching to the second site. This process is nearly instant, and the nurse won’t lose any of her patient documentation.

LHCH accomplished non-disruptive disaster recovery testing, simple installation – together with automated failover, failback, recovery and testing – to deliver aggressive service levels and minimise the impact on patient care. Though a project like this might typically take six months, LHCH and Allscripts got it up and running in three.

It’s a winning combination of team members, software and automation. LHCH recently received one of five Best of VMworld Europe 2014 user awards for this virtualisation project. With a fairly limited investment in services, LHCH achieved substantial improvements.

* Editor’s Note: Electronic Patient Record (EPR) is another term for Electronic Medical Record (EMR) or Electronic Health Record (EHR).

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