If a hospital staged a disaster drill for a hurricane, chances are the exercise would focus on the actions of caregivers.
But would the drill also include a medical center's IT technicians?
It should, said Jim Grogan, vice president of consulting and software product marketing for SunGard Availability Services, in Wayne, PA. SunGard provides IT disaster recovery assistance and managed IT services to 10,000 customers in North America and Europe.
If IT systems go down in a hospital as part of a real disaster, the effects will be felt on the clinical front line, Grogan said. With systems down, nurses may need to send designated "runners" with diagnostic tests to the laboratory and be prepared to wait four hours for results instead of just 15 minutes electronically.
Workers may have to re-enter reimbursement information from patient charts into a rebooted billing system. In the worst IT crashes, the emergency department might have to close temporarily.
Actively including IT representatives in drills will ease interdepartmental confusion and force all sides to appreciate what others view as the consequences of disasters, Grogan said. Simply put, nurses look at mission critical systems as lab testing equipment and ventilators. IT techs view disks and servers as mission critical needs.
When both sides participate in disaster exercises and learn how IT will recover the hospital's systems, those perspectives become more open, Grogan said.
SunGard, which has clients within healthcare and other industries, offers the following three strategies for IT recovery drills: