How healthcare organizations can prepare for cloud service outages

Healthcare organizations should have a DR and business continuity plan to retain access to patient charts and administrative services in case of a cloud service outage.

In recent years, the shift to the cloud has been an ongoing initiative for many hospitals in the U.S. This has been the result of cloud vendors offering capabilities around redundancy, scalability and management. However, despite the fact that some healthcare organizations have successfully reduced their infrastructure footprint by moving to the cloud, concerns still remain about the potential impact of cloud service outages on patient care.

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) experienced several hours of downtime on its services in the U.S. East-1 region on February 28, 2016, several clients experienced connectivity issues and loss of service as a result. While AWS’ official statement said the incident was the result of human error, there have been cases where cloud services became inaccessible due to internet providers experiencing connectivity issues. These issues forced their clients — including hospitals — to lose connection as well.

The adoption of cloud services varies from one group to another, and the impact of an outage can include losing access to patient charts, medical images, email or administrative services. This highlights the realities of being at the mercy of the vendor when an outage occurs. In many cases, the organization’s IT department is not able to provide an ETA on when the systems will be restored.

Preparing for cloud service outages

Organizations can prepare for a cloud service outage by implementing a disaster recovery and business continuity plan. However, for smaller health organizations that rely on their EHR as a service losing access to their core online hosted system can’t easily be mitigated. These small organizations can ensure they have a secondary line of internet to connect to if one of their internet service providers is down. If the EHR vendor itself is completely offline due to an outage in a service such as AWS, the healthcare organization may have to rely on paper charts until service is restored. If the organization has completely moved from paper to electronic charts, a physician may not have access to a patient’s chart during a visit.


Reda Chouffani – Biz Technology Solutions