Protect Now to Prevent Expense Later

  |   Practice Management

What would you do if a fire, flood or computer virus destroyed all of the digital data in your hospital? According to Price Waterhouse Coopers, seven out of ten small businesses that experience a data loss go out of business within a year. The Disaster Preparedness Council reports 20 per cent of the companies they surveyed suffered $50,000 to $5 million dollars in downtime losses following a complete wipe out of digital files.

Nancy Dewitz, Veterinary & Marketing Technology Consultant with Beyond Indigo Pets, has witnessed significant data loss in a veterinary practice and knows how costly it can be for a hospital.  Her experience in helping veterinary hospitals protect themselves from data loss has highlighted the number of hospital teams unaware of what information is being backed up sufficiently. She shares, “Often, hospitals will purchase auxiliary systems something like a digital x-ray, plug it into their existing network and assume it will be backed up with the rest of their digital information but it doesn’t work that way.”

She contends that the radiographs and ultrasound images are especially important because they are a snapshot in time and cannot be duplicated once lost.

In order to protect your hospital from losing valuable data, Dewitz recommends the following:

  1. Take an inventory of the types of data you store. Go through every computer in the hospital to see what kind of files are in each computer.  Determine whether the data is:
  • Mission critical – practice management data, medical record data, images, accounting data, lab data
  • Critical – client documents, document templates, employee records
  • Noncritical – newsletters, past calendars, anything that may never be needed again but important to have on file
  • Personal – staff pet pictures, vacation pictures, funny videos, etc.
  1. Determine what data needs to be backed up using offsite storage. Mission critical and critical information should be backed up on and offsite automatically. Dewitz strongly recommends backing up everything onsite because it gives you immediate access to data, it is less expensive and internet access is not needed.However, in the event of a catastrophic event, onsite data storage can be destroyed. By having both onsite and offsite backup used in conjunction with each other, a problem in one side of the equation can be offset by recovery from the other side.
  2. Consider your onsite and offsite options for backing up your hospital’s information. Offsite back up means using cloud based storage. Dewitz explains, “Storing data in the cloud means you send data over the internet to a secure server (the cloud) where it is stored.” When considering cloud storage, Dewitz recommends picking the right company. “Be sure it is a reputable business where everything sent to the cloud is encrypted, including the information from your practice management software.”

Onsite storage entails storing important data on a regular basis on local storage devices, such as network attached storage (NAS), removable hard drives or tape storage.  NAS drives connect to a router via Ethernet or Wi-Fi and are visible to any computer connected to that network. Because they operate over your network, NAS drives centralize backup for all the computers in the hospital.

Removable hard drives allow for easy transfer and better connection from your computers’ internal to external hard drive. The main disadvantage is that it can be damaged easily if dropped or shaken and it can be affected by heat, magnetism and sunlight. Tape storage is one of the least expensive forms allowing you to store more data for less money than other storage options but it can be slower to access the data when needed.

Make it a priority. Dewitz contends that veterinary hospitals need to make data protection a priority in order to prevent expensive, unnecessary loss of patient files including ultrasounds, etc. “Making sure data is constantly backed up is just important as locking the door at night and it needs to be part of the regular routine in running a hospital,” says Dewitz.  She adds, “Everyone on the team needs to understand the importance of backing everything up and understand the consequences if data was lost.”


By Terra Shastri, Manager of Business Development – Ontario Veterinary Medical Association


Posted February 2, 2018