As a physician still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, I know first hand the importance of backing up your electronic data.
In the continuing wake of the disaster wrought upon the Gulf Coast region by Katrina, I would like to warn my colleagues about the risk of not having a bulletproof backup system for their data. For this article, I interviewed Sam Gutmann, president and CEO of Englewood, NJ-based Intronis Technologies ( http://www.intronis.com/), which offers an online service that automates the process of backing up electronic data. This article will help you sleep at night knowing that if a disaster occurs, you will have immediate access to your data and you'll know that you can begin operating your practice with just a few computer keystrokes.
Practicing in the digital era
In the health care profession, almost everything is, or soon will be, digital. Not only does this include practice management systems, but also electronic medical records data, e-mail correspondence, and even x-rays and pathology reports. Risking the loss of this data means risking going out of business, Gutmann warns.
Data protection also has legal implications. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates that you take efforts to protect your data. In addition to disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes, you have to prevent data theft. Failure to protect data has proven costly to large companies and even the government: the Veterans Health Administration recently had thousands of its patients' identification data stolen.
Because our practices are so dependent on digital technology, we are at risk for losing this precious data. If you're asking yourself if your computer's hard drive will fail, you're asking the wrong question; it is merely a question of when. Hardware, including laptop and desktop computers, are also at risk for theft. Stealing backup tapes and CDs is not difficult, and malicious employees can erase data.
Neither theft nor malice is the most common cause of loss of data, however. The number-one reason is human error: when an employee accidentally deletes or overwrites data on the hard drive or the backup tapes. A seamless backup system can give you confidence that lost, stolen, or accidentally deleted files can be recovered.