Guest Column | February 26, 2019

Preventative Care: A 5 Step Strategy To Avoid Loss Of Patient Data, System Downtime, And Out Of Control Data Management Costs

By Shridar Subramanian, StorageCraft

EHRs With Clinical Decision Support Provide Better Care

In healthcare, fast access to critical patient data makes the difference between life and death. If doctors can’t get the patient’s information they need when they need it, the quality of care could be severely compromised with potentially unpredictable consequences.

This means that the storage and protection of data is of vital importance in healthcare. Downtime must be avoided at all costs—even in the event of a catastrophic failure, whether that’s a regional natural disaster or cyberattack.

But here’s the problem: Storing, securing and intelligently managing data is becoming increasingly difficult, time-consuming and expensive for healthcare organizations.

There are several reasons for this. To begin with, the volume of healthcare data is growing at an astronomical rate, driven in part by necessary efforts at healthcare organizations to digitize all their patient health records.

Another driver of data growth is diagnostic devices like CT scanners, MRIs and X-ray machines, which produce massive amounts of imaging data. As these technologies continue to advance, the image files they produce become better, have higher resolution and grow larger and larger in file-size. Because hospitals are generally required to store medical images for seven years in accordance with disaster recovery compliance requirements, their image archives are expanding by as much as 40 percent annually, according to AT&T For Health division.

The Internet of Things is yet another driver of the data management challenge for healthcare organizations. Connected devices like fitness monitors and in-room sensors all produce their own streams of data, all of which must be stored and managed.

Add it all up and the storage demand at even a small medical practice or hospital can quickly reach petabyte-size.

But the challenge does not stop there. Because as the data grows, the time, budget and resources required to store, protect and manage this critical patient data grows as well.

What healthcare organizations need is a data management and data protection solution that delivers constant, uninterrupted data availability. In addition to being reliable, the solution must be affordable, so it doesn’t break the budget. This is a huge ask, to say the least.

The solution must also guard against ransomware and cyberattacks, because healthcare organizations are increasingly under attack from a growing list of threats. For example, ransomware can infect a hospital’s vital patient data or information systems and hold them hostage.

Hospitals are particularly susceptible to this kind of extortion due to their dependence on up-to-the-minute information from patient records. Without quick access to their information systems, hospitals simply cannot do their job. For hackers, hospitals are a great target because they can’t risk the lives of their patients and are therefore much more likely to pay ransom.

This is partly why healthcare suffered more ransomware attacks than any other industry in 2017, according to a Beazley. The report found that a staggering 45 percent of all ransomware attacks in 2017 were aimed at the healthcare sector.

The good news is that the market offers solutions designed to handle the ever-increasing amounts of healthcare data securely and cost-effectively, ensuring that quality care is never jeopardized by lack of access to vital information.

Here are five ways healthcare organizations can protect themselves against the triple threat of out of control data costs, system downtime and loss of data integrity.

  1. Look For Converged Primary And Secondary Storage

To properly deal with explosive data growth, healthcare facilities need an approach that delivers comprehensive storage and data protection services in a single, integrated and easy-to-use solution. By integrating primary, secondary and cloud data-management capabilities, healthcare organizations can eliminate storage and data protection silos while decreasing the risk of any downtime.

  1. Benefit From Cost-Effective, Scale-Out Storage

Small and midsize healthcare practices and hospitals face many of the same data challenges as very large healthcare providers, but they have fewer resources and smaller budgets available. That’s why they need scalable storage that will adapt to their data needs. Healthcare organizations should be able to start with a single node with a few terabytes of capacity, then seamlessly and non-disruptively scale to multiple petabytes with zero configuration or application changes.

  1. Protect Against Data Degradation

Medical images, in particular, are highly vulnerable to data degradation. The silent corruption of data in medical images caused by bit rot is a significant concern. The problem is compounded because legacy systems store images such as X-rays to a picture archiving and communication system and may not detect if data has been compromised. As a result, the information read from the legacy storage system may be corrupt and unusable. Healthcare organizations need modern data solutions that can guard against this kind of data degradation.

  1. Inoculate Against Ransomware

Data protection is a top priority for healthcare organizations as they battle against the constant threat of cyberattacks. Healthcare providers need to have strong encryption throughout the data life cycle without having undue management complexity. The answer to this challenge is immutable object storage. Modern healthcare organizations solve this issue by implementing a storage solution that protects information continuously and takes data snapshots every 90 seconds. Because the object store is immutable, these snapshots remain completely unaffected in the event of an attack. As a result, healthcare organizations can recover the most recent version of data, and thus thwart any ransomware attack.  

  1. Insist On A Tangible ROI

Because cyberattacks are increasingly common, hospitals are seeking insurance policies that provide coverage in the event of a data breach or loss. But every medical record is assigned a dollar value by insurance companies as part of the risk assessment, which can add up to tens of millions of dollars in premiums. However, these insurance premiums can be reduced when hospitals can demonstrate they have effective data management and protection strategies in place. Recently, one healthcare provider was facing a $22 million insurance premium, but by deploying an appropriate data management and protection solution, this premium was reduced, thereby delivering immediate ROI on the project from day one.

With the right data management solution, healthcare facilities can not only protect their data and decrease costs, they can better treat their patients and ultimately save more lives. That, as doctors say, is a desirable outcome.

About The AuthorShridar Subramanian, StorageCraft

Shridar Subramanian is VP, marketing and product management for StorageCraft and has more than 23 years of experience in information technology. Shridar joined StorageCraft with the acquisition of Exablox in January 2017. Prior to StorageCraft, Shridar was the VP of marketing at Virident Systems, a leading provider of PCI SSDs, where he was responsible for product strategy, go-to-market as well as awareness and demand generation. In addition, Shridar  was the senior director of marketing at Monosphere Inc., a storage virtualization software company, where he was responsible for market and product definition for the company.