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Picture Perfect

May 10, 2013
by Richard R. Rogoski
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A hospital’s imaging department rolls out its own disaster recovery plan

Now that most diagnostic images are digital, the storage and retrieval of those images have become a crucial part of hospitals’ disaster recovery plans.

At Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill., the imaging department developed a new disaster recovery strategy after a power outage in 2010 revealed that the redundancy built into its existing disaster recovery plan was inadequate.

Marjorie Calvetti, R.T.(R), M.S.W., M.B.A., director of medical imaging services, says that even though the power outage lasted less than four hours, it took an hour and a half to switch over to the auxiliary data center located about 10 miles from the hospital. “It did not have all the applications necessary to operate in a down situation,” she explains. “And there was considerable damage to our systems because our back-up to the back-up failed.”

With the support of the hospital’s IT division and the vice president of operations, to whom she reports, Calvetti called in a consultant to help design a real-time disaster-recovery strategy.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Carestream Health Inc., Memorial’s picture archiving and communication system vendor, was called in to upgrade the hospital’s long-term storage solution.

Memorial Medical Center is a 500-bed teaching hospital that is also affiliated with two 25-bed hospitals and a number of physician practices. As a result, Memorial is responsible for storing all images created both on- and off-site, Calvetti says.

Using the same off-site data center as before the power outage, the new disaster recovery plan called for the data center’s reconfiguration in order to create a hot-hot environment by replicating all hospital imaging systems, Calvetti says. Now images are “sent as they are created” and stored on a hard drive in the data center, she notes.

All systems and the high-speed broadband connection were up and running by the summer of 2012—about two years after the massive power outage. “It took us a considerable amount of time because we didn’t want to experience production downtime,” Calvetti says.

In fact, scheduling for system downtime became one of the biggest challenges.

At between 90 percent and 95 percent paperless, Memorial Medical Center relies on its electronic health record for the input and distribution of all patient data, including diagnostic images. “We didn’t want to affect patient care, so we did a lot of the changeover at 2 a.m., when patients were sleeping,” she says.

Another challenge involved what Calvetti refers to as a “trust issue.” Those on staff who had experienced the power outage in 2010 were totally on board; but everyone also had to be aware of the impact this changeover would have on all the other systems. “We had to communicate what challenges were coming,” she says.

Calvetti offers this advice to those planning to implement their own disaster recovery plan: “Do your due diligence. Evaluate all options and don’t listen to how people say it will work. Do a site visit; don’t just take your vendor’s word for it.”