3 min read

2011 Blogs in Review – The Role that IT Plays

By Prime Care Tech Marketing on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 @ 05:42 PM

Be nimble with Information Technology, Survive with ITOver the last several months, this blog has covered topics focusing on various aspects of IT and its impact on long term care. In our Thanksgiving Day blog, we observed how important IT has become to all of us – in how we work, how we communicate, how we entertain, how we educate, how we conduct business; IT is everywhere. Although slow in adopting technology, LTC providers have made significant progress in understanding, valuing, and embracing IT as a powerful tool to meet ever-changing challenges. For example, twice we demonstrated this fact as we momentarily digressed from IT-specific topics to alert readers about changes to billing therapy services to Medicare and avoiding workforce-related lawsuits.

These are trying and potentially dangerous times for the economy in general and long term care in particular. The vital role that IT can play in helping LTC providers survive reminds me of the African gazelle. The gazelle can reach a peak speed of 48-50 mph outpacing many of its predators. However, the cheetah can reach 0 to 60 mph in about 3.3 seconds with a top speed of 70 mph. You do the math. Since gazelles are a favorite meal for cheetahs, the difference between life and death is sustainability vs. spurts of brilliance. Cheetahs can only sustain such high speeds in bursts; gazelles on the other hand can maintain their top speed for miles. They can also make sharper turns and initiate quick changes of direction with minimal reduction in speed. Cheetahs cannot. Although slower, gazelles have the advantage if they are alert, sure-footed, and responsive to threats and opportunities.

Likewise, to survive and thrive, to outpace the “cheetah’s” of poor reputation, burdensome and sometimes conflicting regulation, competition, and reduced reimbursement, LTC providers must be on guard, quick to respond, and nimble. However, they also need vision. To blindly charge day-to-day into the fray without a clear understanding of what is going on around them and within their operations, can be suicidal. Data mining and business intelligence can help providers discover, discern, and act on the data they already have. In real time, digital dashboards can reveal business-critical information (Key Performance Indicators – KPIs) displayed in ways that easy to understand.

In 2011, we also discussed how important protection of your IT assets and data is and why disaster plans must include IT. “After the fact” is too late. Also, IT asset management (ITAM) can help providers to track and protect their IT assets, use, and storage.

Just over the horizon loom major changes in health care, ACOs being one of those changes. The significance of ACOs to IT in long term care can be found in the need for interoperability and IT infrastructure. Whether ACO’s pose a threat or an opportunity will depend on the specific market served and the provider’s willingness and ability to respond. Being uninformed and ill prepared is like a deer facing on-coming headlights. The prospect of becoming health care road kill is not appealing.

Question: IT is here to stay, are you on board? In what ways has IT helped your operation?

Topics: IT business intelligence dashboard ACOs disaster recovery IT asset management ITAM Part A Therapy Services
3 min read

Systems and Data Disaster Preparedness

By Prime Care Tech Marketing on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 @ 01:04 PM

Disaster recovery must include IT systems and data.It’s that time of year again.
In 2011, the desolation and loss of life in the wake of the massive tornados in Joplin, MO, in Tuscaloosa, AL, and other states have captured the attention of LTC providers across the country with the realization that disasters can strike anywhere, at anytime. They recognize the need for a real-world, workable, and well-rehearsed disaster preparedness and recovery plan that at least minimizes, if not prevents, injury and loss of life during and after a disaster.

Post-disaster recovery, however, must also encompass access to resident information, because in the world of EMR, electronic data can be lost if the servers or other storage devices are damaged by fire, flooding, or building collapse. Fortunately, there are steps which you can implement now to protect that vital information before a disaster strikes.

Backup procedures (a good start) - A basic IT disaster preparedness plan must include a regularly-scheduled daily back-up of data with off-site storage and I don’t mean in an employee's home. Tip: One important thing to remember about backups: they should be regularly tested. Nothing is more frustrating than to need a backup and find that the data is corrupt or non-existent.

Fault tolerance - The next step up in disaster recovery is to build fault tolerance into all of your critical systems. This means installing Redundant Array of Independent (or Inexpensive) Disks (RAID) drives (disk drives which are redundant copies of each other), clustered systems, and other types of local recovery procedures.

What happens if - Once you have a good backup and archiving procedure with critical fault-tolerant systems in place, the next step is to put together procedures for remote disaster recovery.

Option: Co-location

You might, for example, make arrangements with another company to share equipment and space if either is struck by disaster. Such an arrangement also requires agreements with critical computer vendors to quickly ship new systems in the event of an emergency. Although recovery would be slow, this kind of planning is a good first step.

Option: A Split Site

Some companies are large enough that the IT department could be staffed at more than one location. In the event of a disaster to one site, operations would simply shift to the other.

Option: A Cold Site

This is a site (often managed by a third party and shared among multiple clients) which is stocked with equipment and ready to go. The remote servers are generally not “live,” and time is required to activate the off-site system should the need arise. This is a popular disaster recovery method, because it tends to be less expensive than other options and gives a company the ability to be up and running with a brief delay.

Option: A Warm Site

If a company has the resources, then a warm site is a viable alternative. This is a site which is pre-positioned with equipment, software, and other necessities ready to go in the event of an emergency. The equipment is idle, often turned off, but can be quickly restored and brought online. Data is available quickly and can be restored without much difficulty. However, a high level of competence and forward thinking is required to plan, build, and maintain it.

Option: A Hot Site

In this scenario, a duplicate computer center is available in a remote location from as little as a few miles to hundreds of miles away from the primary computer facility with communications lines set up and actively copying data at all times. At a minimum, the site has a duplicate of every critical server up and running with data that is up-to-date.

Option: The Cloud

By its very nature, the cloud is designed to handle business continuity; high availability; and disaster recovery. So that in the event of a disaster, management and staff can access business-critical applications and data anytime from anywhere. Cloud Services Providers (CSPs), like PCT, provide pooled resources, flexibility, scalability, security, and reliability to businesses of all sizes so that businesses can store their data, applications, systems, and services.

Don’t wait! Act!

Regardless of the option you choose, having a viable systems and data disaster recovery system is critical.

Topics: cloud computing disaster recovery disaster preparedness
2 min read

Cloud Computing– a Viable Disaster Recovery Option

By Prime Care Tech Marketing on Mon, Oct 18, 2010 @ 03:16 PM

Managed hosting - be familiar with IT's DR response-ability

The strengths of outsourcing-Outsourcing information technology (IT) for many has been the best-fit alternative to designing, building, equipping, staffing, and deploying an in-house solution.

Because Cloud Services Providers (CSPs) are able to take advantage of economies of scale in the deployment of cutting-edge technology, providers can access information at anytime from anywhere. For a predictable monthly fee, customers of CSPs enjoy the benefits of:

  • Affordability
  • Scalability
  • Reliability
  • Availability
  • Extensibility
  • Maintainability

While the above sounds good in a sales pitch, you may still feel "ill-at-ies", because the real world can be something different. Information systems present a peculiar puzzle with unique risks. As such, exposure to disasters can be much broader than natural disasters. Corrupted data, systems crashing, blackouts, theft, viruses, sabotage, definitely expand the definition of "disaster."

Compatibility with business objectives-Disaster recovery puts a significant strain on IT resources, particularly CSPs whose data centers house mission-critical applications and data for numerous customers. Before selecting a CSP, you should test its compatibility with your business model. Does the CSP understand not only your industry/profession, does it understand and can it respond swiftly to your business requirements?

Questions to ask about your CSP-Theoretically, CSPs are equipped to deal with disasters. They have the environmentals, physical plant, equipment, and staff to respond quickly should the need arise. To test their response-ability, you should seek and verify the answers to questions, such as:

  • Does the CSP have and has it tested a working disaster recovery plan?
  • May you examine the the plan?
  • Can the plan stand alone in the event its "key people" are unavailable?
  • Is the CSP willing to test the system with you as part of a regularly-scheduled disaster drill?
  • Can you form a crisis management team with members of the CSP staff?
  • Does the CSP have a back-up and disaster recovery site? Does it have ready access to the outside world, such as a redundant and scalable Metro Ethernet ring, to provide critical backup and disaster recovery service?
  • Does the CSP have an operational automated network monitoring system, such as Big Brother, to monitor its servers and data communications networks?
  • Does the CSP have communication procedures in place to alert needed personnel compatible with your disaster plan?
  • In the event of a disaster, how quickly would you be "back in business?"
  • What procedures do they have in place?
  • Have you communicated to the CSP what applications and data are absolutely mission critical?
  • What fail-over systems does the CSP have in place? How often does the CSP test these?

These are just a few of the questions. With a proper service level agreement (SLA) in place, a customer and the CSP can develop a working relationship under any circumstance. Remember, to leverage an CSP's strengths, you must know its capacity to respond its response-ability.

Topics: disaster recovery CSP


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