Improving disaster recovery outcomes
Healthcare data must be protected to conform to HIPAA requirements, which active archive supports through the expanded role of tape.
By Molly Rector D
isasters can put healthcare institutions in the daunting position of needing to treat patients and simultaneously preserve at-risk data that may be necessary to treatment. This combination makes healthcare disaster recovery (DR) extremely challenging. Data retrieval following a disaster must support two critical yet discrete purposes: preserving patient information to ensure high-quality care and providing business continuity for the infra- structure behind patient care. HIPAA (Health Insurance Porta- bility and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations that govern electronic personal health information (ePHI) privacy further complicate DR requirements. This complexity is aggravated by the increasing risk of disaster given an ever-larger population, making healthcare DR planning an absolute necessity. DR planning for healthcare institutions benefi ts from technologies now available across multiple industries. These new tools and advanced technologies make it possible to retain access to data during a disaster through a combination of data copies stored at multiple sites and the use of active archive. Active archive, in conjunction with standard backup processes, permits rapid recovery, in part because active archive reduces the amount of data backed up. At the same time, data stored in the archive is always accessible.
What is active archive?
The term archive in the healthcare industry sometimes refers to the storage of imaging data. An active archive ex- tends to all data, including ePHI, fi nancial data and imaging data (such as that historically stored in picture archiving and communication systems, or PACS). An active archive also allows this data to be continuously accessible. In the case of disaster, the information is retrieved from a remote site, using a combination of disk and tape. Active archive is a method that has been in use over de- cades in data-driven industries including high-performance computing (HPC), media and entertainment. Because of the tremendous growth of data in all markets, new markets are continually implementing active archive. Its use in healthcare is a natural progression, as healthcare relies on and generates enormous amounts of electronic data. Further, healthcare data
16 March 2012
must be protected to conform to HIPAA requirements, which active archive supports through the expanded role of tape, with its encryption capabilities and media longevity. Active archive stores and accesses data, independent of the media used to store it. Access is rapid through content indexing, which creates metadata that describes the stored information. With content indexing, users can quickly fi nd and restore data directly. With active archive, data is stored on both disk and tape, and can be accessed using a standard fi le system interface. The active archive application simply fi nds and retrieves the data. If the data isn’t on disk, the system gets the data from tape without requiring the extra step of restoring it through backup software. Data retrieved from tape may require a few extra minutes – latency typically acceptable for data that may not have been accessed for years – but is important to immediate patient care. As a result, all healthcare staff, including physicians and nursing staff, have immediate access to information about their patients, regardless of the date of origin of the patient record.
Traditional tape implementation success: Weill Medical College New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College relies on tape for backup and disaster recovery, in part because of the ease of encrypting data; encrypting ePHI provides protection that
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