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What happens when a medical center loses its communication link to its remote hosted application provider?

Hospitals today are expected to provide patients with leading-edge healthcare using the latest technology. With new technology and innovation comes complexity, so staying on top of the industry is a difficult task. This is one reason many large medical facilities opt to use a remote hosted environment where a third party can provide the required functionality as a service.

Along with the many advantages of the remote hosted environment come some disadvantages. For example, in the event that communications links fail (and they inevitably do), hospitals particularly must ensure that critical documents for patient care can still be delivered in a timely fashion. Organizations must first identify the documents most critical to patient care, then design reliable methods to distribute these documents.

When dealing with computerized healthcare records, specific confidentiality and security rules must be followed to protect the patient. An ever-increasing list of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) regulations dictate how these records are handled. This is something to factor in when integrating a third-party provider’s applications into your healthcare environment and processes.

Downtime Reporting in Action

Downtime reporting solutions can ensure continuous information access and help with regulatory compliance. Output management specialists can provide the knowledge, expertise, and software needed to implement a centralized archive to deliver critical documents in a secure and timely manner to multiple locations in multiple formats (print, disk, web, etc.) using proven and reliable methods and technology. A recent healthcare example may help to illustrate this point.

A large University Medical Center experienced a situation common to many health care organizations. The facility has 540 beds and 5100 employees, and is responsible for the preclinical and clinical education of 450 medical students. The facility uses multiple remote hosted application providers that are critical to patient care. Some of the reports from these applications are critical to patient care (for example the Medication Administration Record, or MAR).

Due to multiple communication link outages this year between the facility and a remote hosted application provider, this report was not available in electronic form. As a result, it needed to be manually printed, decollated, and distributed to nursing stations throughout the facility. The printed report is about 3,600 pages in length and took over two hours to print. During extended outages, the report is FTP’d from the application provider via a backup communication connection. However, since these medication requirements are subject to change, the report is FTP’d every hour until the connection is restored.

After discussions with the IT director and a detailed evaluation, LRS proposed a solution to streamline the delivery of MAR reports to nursing stations. MAR reports are now sent on an hourly basis via FTP; a File Feed Service monitors the FTP server and delivers any newly-arrived files to a waiting queue. From there, the report is converted to PDF format and routed to an electronic archive where it is “decollated” according to the Nursing Station Code (NSC).

Decollated reports are indexed using the NSC identifiers and stored in a secure folder within the viewable electronic archive. Using the archive’s Server Print function, the decollated reports are also returned to print queues and pushed to local storage on the workstations located at each nursing station. Reports can be viewed, printed at locally attached printers, or both. Optionally, the reports can be sent to an MFD and stored on the internal hard drive where they can be retrieved by authorized users and printed. When new reports are received, the process is repeated and the old report is removed from the workstation.

Right Information, Right Away

In healthcare environments, even brief information outages can impact patient care. Remote hosted healthcare applications offer many business benefits, but increase the chance that network or application problems may affect critical healthcare processes. Implementing a robust downtime reporting solution can help you mitigate these risks and ensure reliable delivery of information to those who need it. If you do not have such systems in place, or want to discuss ways to improve the continuity of your document-driven business processes, feel free to contact us to discuss your requirements. 

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