More EMR Data Backups

Posted on April 9, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many of you will remember my post making the case for in house EMR backups versus SaaS EMR backups. It was my first swing at my favorite part of blogging. I personally call it blog sparring. Basically, two (or more) bloggers discussing various viewpoints about a certain issue (I welcome other bloggers to join in).

Well, Lyndsey from Nuesoft brought the President and CEO, Massoud Aibakhsh, in on the fun in a post they called, “Continuing the Discussion…Data Backups: Leave it to the Experts.”

I appreciate Massoud’s response and he does make some interesting points about what is possible when a SaaS EMR vendor does the backups correctly. There’s no doubt that a SaaS EMR provider has more resources available to do a more robust backup, disaster recovery and business continuity plan than a small doctors office with a single server. His points about possible HIPAA breaches are also worthy of serious consideration. However, that kind of avoids a discussion of the points I made about relying on your SaaS EMR vendor to do the backup.

Nuesoft, why don’t you offer your end users a nice single click download of all their patient data which a doctors office could store in a nice HIPAA secured place in their office weekly/monthly or some other reasonable amount of time? Then, you’ll have the best of both worlds for a doctor’s office. They have your enterprise level backup, availability and load balancing and they’ll have a local copy of their data which helps them sleep better at night knowing it’s safely stored away in their office.

Of course, I’m not really trying to single out Nuesoft. I don’t know ANY SaaS EMR vendor that provides this service and that’s really unfortunate. Who’s going to be the first EMR software company to step up and provide this kind of support to the doctors?

If you’re really brave, you’ll even provide it in a format that they can extract the data themselves should they so desire (say if your company gets bought by someone else). I actually believe I heard of one EMR vendor that does this (client server though). They provide all of the data from their EMR in a nice exportable XML file which could easily be maninipulated.

I’m sure many in the room reading this will say, but what about vendor lock in? Why would I as an EMR vendor make it easy for my users to export their data out of my system? If I do that, they might *gasp* leave for another EMR vendor.

I of course asked the above mentioned EMR vendor about this problem. Their answer was a confident, “there are some that might leave because it’s easy to leave, but so far people have no reason to leave our EMR because they like it so much.” Kind of an interesting concept. Make an EMR that people love so much that they have no reason to change even though the door is open.

Granted, I’m not naive enough to think that some won’t leave. I’ve heard many a horror story of doctors leaving an EMR (for good reason or not) and then realizing that the grass wasn’t greener on the other EMR vendor side. Many of these doctors end up heading right back to their old EMR vendor.

One day a SaaS EMR vendor is going to revolutionize the backup process for their end users and start providing this level of data backup to their users. I know I’d be impressed with a SaaS EMR vendor that had that much faith in their product that they’ll give you a regular export (backup) of all the clinic’s data.

Now, back to some other comments from the Nuesoft post. In it, you asked me, “Do you seriously think banks use some of the services you mentioned to back up financial data?”

Well of course banks don’t use the services I mention to back up their financial data. Although, find me a bank that has 1 banker and 6 employees and I’ll show you a bank that uses the services I mention to backup their data.

At the end of the day. Let me liberally use a quote from the movie Shrek:

Shrek: Backups are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. no.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave them out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin little white hairs.
Shrek: NO. Layers. Onions have layers.

Yep, backups are all about layers. The more layers of backup you have, the happier you’ll be. I know there’s been a number of times in my IT career that I’ve had to go to my 2nd, 3rd and 4th options to recover all the data from various backups I’d done. The more well designed layers of backup you have, the happier you’ll be if (when?) disaster hits.