The term “backup” had an entirely different meaning to clinicians during the early generations of electronic health record (EHR) systems. Back then, backup meant having enough paper forms on hand for clinicians to manually write patient notes when the EHR was unavailable, which frequently happened with planned downtime. 

Thankfully, the entire EHR stack’s stability and reliability has improved, but with the tradeoff of increased complexity. Likewise, backups have had to evolve to keep pace. Backups, once considered a low-level tactical operation, have grown into a strategic pillar of the enterprise. But it wasn’t always that way.

I can remember a time when we were more concerned about the backup finishing successfully than the time it took to complete. A full EHR restore from backup was tested periodically, but we thought of it in much the same way that we think of term life insurance—a bit of security, but not something that we plan on ever using.

Things were simpler back then. EHR databases were significantly smaller, ransomware wasn’t an issue, and all the details of backing up and restoring the main EHR were the responsibility of the IT storage teams. Recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) were IT issues that business leaders had no visibility or input into. 

Since I left the healthcare provider world to join Pure Storage, my perspective has changed. It is informed by the many healthcare and IT leaders whom I talk with every week about their challenges, emerging solutions, and crowdsourced insights. The following are some insights that they have shared with me.

While I will focus on the areas of backup and recovery, I recognize that there are many layers in a resilient data architecture strategy. For a great full summary of a tiered resiliency architecture, check out this blog post by Pure Storage’s Andy Stone.   

With the increased complexity of today’s EHR systems, there are two key things to keep in mind:

  • Healthcare organizations need to reconsider their data protection strategies and especially focus on recovery and business continuity. 
  • Recovery is the aspect that clinicians and patients care about the most. 

Within the larger provider EHR community, I regularly talk with medium and large organizations that have drifted their restore times out to multiple days. Larger production EHR databases on legacy solutions are not keeping up with RTOs that are closer to what clinicians expect. I regularly find organizations with 18-hour backup times and three- to four-day restore times. They usually say it without any feelings of being ashamed about letting it get that bad. This drift just happens over time as the database grows.

To address all these issues, Pure Storage and Cohesity have combined our efforts to offer a solution that modernizes EHR backup and recovery processes. Our solution leverages the power of Pure Storage® FlashBlade//S™ with Cohesity® DataProtect to deliver:

  • High performance: Up to three times faster backup and restore throughput than disk-based alternatives. 
  • Simplified management: Ease of management, auto-discovery, and configuration of FlashBlade®, including non-disruptive upgrades with native cloud integration for flash-to-flash-to-cloud backup, recovery, and archive. 
  • Scalable and efficient data reuse: Disaggregated compute and storage for independent scaling of backup and recovery processes, plus reuse of backup data on FlashBlade for modern applications. 
  • Recovery at scale: Restore and recover petabytes of data in mere hours.

Data-driven healthcare requires an evolved data protection strategy that is fast, tested, scalable, and affordable. Traditional spinning disk hard drives—even solid-state hard drives—do not offer the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and reliability of Pure Storage’s all-flash storage solutions. 

With data being the lifeblood of today’s healthcare environments, can any organization afford the risk of slow backups and even slower restore processes? 

For more information, please refer to the white paper that specifically addresses safeguarding Epic System environments with Pure Storage FlashBlade//S with Cohesity DataProtect.