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From downtime to uptime: Mastering the art of digital healthcare recovery

Layering rapid recovery strategies on top of protection gives providers the best chance to quickly resume operations after disruption.
By admin
Apr 1, 2024, 8:38 AM

Editor’s note: This is the first of three articles, powered by CHIME Digital Health Insights and sponsored by Pure Storage, looking at the intersection of data storage and cybersecurity for improved digital health operations.


In healthcare, downtime is not an option. Disrupted operations can lead to a domino effect of negative consequences, impacting patient care, financial stability, and even legal repercussions. Resilient protection and rapid recovery strategies paired with the right technology can keep healthcare operations running smoothly even in the most challenging incidents.

As much as 88% of healthcare providers experienced ransomware attacks in 2020, according to a Ponemon Institute study (DHI coverage). These incidents are costly, with the average ransomware attack costing healthcare organizations a staggering $11 million (source: IBM). When a payer is attacked, the ripple effect across providers can be vast — the American Hospital Association (AHA) said 94% of U.S. hospitals have suffered financially due to the Change Healthcare ransomware attack, and 74% have experienced a direct impact on patient care.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) emphasizes the importance of rapid recovery in its HIPAA Security Rule (HHS newsletter). Their data shows that organizations with a well-defined disaster recovery plan and the ability to restore data quickly experience less downtime and financial losses compared to those without.

However, the reality is many healthcare providers struggle to recover mission critical operations (clinical info and administrative systems) and experience devastating short-term disruptions to care, with business impacts lasting months.

CHIME’s Digital Health Most Wired (DHMW) 2023 survey found a troubling statistic: 40% to 55% of organizations couldn’t restore mission critical operations (clinical info and administrative systems) within four hours of complete loss of their primary data center, instead needing as much as 24 hours to get them back online. This extended downtime translates to delayed care, frustrated patients, and potential financial penalties.

The High Cost of Disruption

Several unforeseen events can send a healthcare organization’s operations into a tailspin. Cyberattacks currently lead the threat landscape, but natural disasters, hardware failures, or even human error, also can lead to a cascade of problems.

  • Business and Care Disruption: Downtime hinders an organization’s ability to deliver care. Patients are left stranded, appointments get canceled, and critical medical procedures might have to be delayed or rescheduled. This can have a detrimental impact on patient health outcomes and satisfaction.
  • Reimbursement Disruption: Delayed or interrupted services can mean a lag in receiving reimbursements from payers. This can create significant cash flow issues for already financially strained healthcare organizations — the recent Change Healthcare ransom attack is a prime example of how far this impact can reach and how paying ransom isn’t always an effective recovery plan. (article)
  • Fines and Legal Exposure: Regulatory bodies impose hefty fines for non-compliance with data security and privacy regulations. Additionally, data breaches can result in lawsuits from patients whose information was compromised.
  • Reputation Damage: News of a data breach or extended downtime can quickly erode an organization’s reputation. Patients may lose trust and seek care elsewhere, impacting patient volumes and long-term revenue.

The Path to Rapid Recovery

Fortunately, healthcare organizations don’t have to be at the mercy of disruptive events. By implementing a comprehensive data protection strategy that prioritizes rapid recovery, healthcare organizations can minimize downtime and its associated consequences. Key elements for such a strategy include:

  • End-to-End Data Protection: This approach goes beyond simply backing up data. It encompasses the entire data lifecycle, from creation and storage to protection and recovery. This includes utilizing high-performance storage solutions for core applications and scalable object storage for massive datasets.
  • Fully Managed Secondary Architecture: Managing a separate backup infrastructure can be a complex and resource-intensive task. Consider solutions that take care of the entire backup infrastructure, freeing up valuable IT resources.
  • Clean Backups with Immutability Features: Immutability ensures data backups are tamper-proof and cannot be accidentally overwritten or encrypted by ransomware. Look for solutions that offer immutable backups, creating an extra layer of protection against data loss. Additionally, consider solutions that create an air gap between primary data and backups, ensuring even if a ransomware attack compromises the primary systems, the backups remain untouched and readily available for recovery.
  • Rapid Restore Capabilities: Being able to quickly restore data after an incident is critical. Explore solutions that offer near-instantaneous data recovery, enabling organizations to get back up and running in a matter of minutes, minimizing disruptions.

Related content: 5 ways to combat ransomware in healthcare

Benefits of a Faster Recovery Strategy

By implementing a comprehensive data protection solution from Pure Storage, healthcare organizations can experience a range of benefits:

  • Reduced Downtime: Rapid recovery times minimize service interruptions and ensure that care delivery continues with minimal disruption.
  • Improved Patient Care: Staff can quickly access critical patient data, allowing them to continue providing uninterrupted care.
  • Lower Costs: Faster recovery translates to less lost revenue and fewer regulatory fines associated with extended downtime.
  • Enhanced Security: “Immutability-plus” technology safeguards data from malicious actors, mitigating the risks associated with ransomware attacks and data breaches.
  • Increased Compliance: A robust DR strategy helps organizations meet HIPAA compliance requirements related to data protection and data availability.
  • Peace of Mind: Knowing they have a reliable recovery plan allows healthcare professionals to focus on what matters most – providing exceptional patient care.

Investing in Resilience Pays Off

Disruptions are inevitable, but their impact doesn’t have to be devastating. By adopting a data protection strategy that prioritizes rapid recovery, healthcare organizations can significantly shorten downtime and mitigate the associated financial losses, reputational damage, and most importantly, ensure uninterrupted patient care. The DHHS report clearly demonstrates the value of rapid recovery, and with the right data protection solutions in place, organizations can achieve this goal and ensure business continuity in the face of unforeseen events.

About Pure Storage

Pure Storage redefines the healthcare data storage experience and simplifies how healthcare organizations protect, consume and interact with data. Pure powers EHRs, enterprise imaging, back-office systems, and more with secure storage that transforms data into value, providing quicker insights for better patient care. 

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