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How long can you wait for your EMR to be Back On-Line?

How long can you wait for your EMR to be Back On-Line?
22 April 2014

A business continuity plan is a set of processes and procedures that ensure a practice returns to normal operation quickly and smoothly after a disruption. What immediately springs to mind for most people is recovering from an environmental disaster such as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. Even if your practice is located in an area not prone to natural disasters, you still need a business continuity plan. Events such as fires, burst pipes and IT emergencies can happen to businesses everywhere.

Here are 5 steps that will help you get started with your business continuity plan.


Choose someone to create the plan and oversee the implementation when you need to put the plan into action. This person must have the time and resources available to create the plan, so choose carefully and make sure practice staff, including the providers, are on board and involved.


You can’t make a plan if you don’t know what your business requires to run. Make a detailed assessment of all of the equipment and software your practice needs to function as a business. Common mission critical services include the EHR, electronic prescription systems, phone system and practice management software. Run a risk analysis for each type of disaster most likely to happen in your business. Determine what would happen if any of these essential systems were compromised or knocked offline, whether manual or automated workarounds are available, and how long your practice can operate without them.


The recovery coordinator should determine how long it will take to restore operations for each critical system. If you have a specific person in charge of one or more systems, the recovery coordinator should ask each of them to provide an estimate. The recovery coordinator should realize there’s a natural tendency toward overoptimistic time frames, so they should stress the importance of giving realistic estimates. If the system is provided by a vendor such as an EHR or VoIP phone system, ask the vendor to provide a timeline estimate.


Determine the goals for each type of disruption, the steps required to reach them and the people in charge of carrying out the steps. For example, if the broadband access at your practice goes out for an extended period, can it switch over to a cellular data or satellite connection instead? What equipment will be required, and who is in charge of setting it up?


An untested plan is risky and assumes everything in your plan will work.  Testing is needed to ensure your plan will work as expected. Set aside some time during non-business hours to run through each of the possible scenarios. Assess the reaction of the staff, and solicit their feedback and suggestions on how to make improvements.


A business continuity plan isn’t something you can shove in a desk drawer and forget about. Plan on updating it any time you make changes to your mission critical systems or determine you have a new one. Reassign responsibilities for carrying out the steps when employees leave, are promoted or move to different areas of the practice. Run a business continuity drill at least once a year to test backup equipment and make sure the steps are clear and familiar to everyone.

While no business can prepare for every possible situation, with an effective, tested business continuity plan you can feel confident your practice will be back to normal in the shortest possible amount of time.

ZH Healthcare can work with your practice to make critical EHR/EMR data available to ease your business continuity planning and execution efforts.