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Electronic Health Record (EHR) software, such as Epic, helps healthcare organizations store and manage patient health information, including medical records, images, financial, and administrative data. Backing up that data can be critical, and can heavily benefit from the help of cloud backup services.
In this article, we discuss considerations to take into account when creating EHR system backups, and how BlueXP backup and recovery can help.
Read on, or use the links to jump down to the sections on:
- NetApp ONTAP for EHR Systems
- Key Considerations to Protecting Patient Data
- How BlueXP Backup and Recovery Makes Backing Up EHR Data Easier and More Secure
NetApp ONTAP for EHR Systems
Healthcare organizations, including those that leverage EHR systems to manage patient data, are required to store sensitive clinical data in a way that makes that data quickly accessible while controlling costs and maintaining robust EHR security. NetApp ONTAP storage can help healthcare organizations meet these challenges.
NetApp ONTAP offers many features that are ideal for healthcare applications, such as SAN integration, low latency, and tiering to low-cost object storage. The platform enables healthcare organizations to get the most out of their existing storage infrastructure and scale up capacity as needed. In addition, ONTAP uses cost-reducing space efficiencies, optimizing storage for resource-constrained organizations.
ONTAP also offers a number of features that are specifically tailored for EHR, including:
- Flexible provisioning with storage-efficient SnapMirror® technology helps reduce the amount of physical storage required.
- Intelligent load balancing automatically optimizes performance and capacity utilization across all nodes in a cluster, providing consistent performance.
- Advanced data protection provides comprehensive data protection with industry-leading snapshot capabilities, seamless disaster recovery processes, and more.
Key Considerations to Protecting Patient Data
Organizations that deal with health data are required to maintain high levels of security and data integrity. As health data is subject to strict regulations on how their data is stored and accessed, it’s important for healthcare organizations to consider a few key factors. to help ensure compliance, implement robust security measures, and implement a comprehensive data protection and disaster recovery strategy.
3-2-1 Backup Strategy
When it comes to backing up and recovering, the 3-2-1 strategy is widely considered as the gold standard. This approach is used to ensure data availability and protect against data loss by creating three copies of data, spread across two different locations, with one copy stored as the "primary" or "live" copy and the other two copies serving as "secondary" or "failover" copies, with one copy stored in a different format.
Although this may sound straightforward, in practice it can be quite challenging to achieve.
- Data mobility: requires a robust data orchestration solution in place that can manage copying and moving data between different storage devices.
- Storage capacity to align with 3-2-1 means carrying resources to store three copies of your data, which can be a significant challenge for large organizations with large data sets.
- Syncing data to ensure that all three copies of the data are kept uniform adds an extra layer of complexity.
EHR System Backup Integration
Achieving backup and disaster recovery data protection, and full compliance require careful treatment. Integrating a third-party backup solution with an EHR system can help address those concerns, but will require testing and validation. Any backup solution employed will need to support EHR data structures and be able to accurately capture all patient care related data elements and metadata.
Additional considerations include:
- Storage efficiency for optimal storage utilization and minimum data transfer times. The backup solution must support data deduplication and compression.
- Data latency can be a critical issue when backing up an EHR system, as it can affect performance and user experience.
- Media gateways in a backup solution present an additional hop for data and introduce a point of failure and open the door for man-in-the-middle attacks.
Sub-Optimal Performance During EHR System Backups
There are many factors to consider when choosing a backup method for EHR data, including the type of data being backed up, the amount of data, the frequency of backup operations, and the desired level of protection.
- Inefficient backup methods can impact IO operations. This is because the process of cloning and replicating data can be quite resource intensive.
- Compliance requirements often demand that data must be stored in multiple locations, which further increases the complexity of the backup process.
- Improperly integrating the backup processes with existing storage systems, networks, and security systems can affect the efficiency and reliability of backups. This can result in longer backup windows, lower bandwidth utilization, and increased risk of data loss or corruption.
As we’ve seen here, rapidly growing and changing data sets can make the backup and recovery process more complex. For EHR system backups, you need a tool that can handle large storage volumes and provide reliable data protection. For ONTAP systems running Epic, BlueXP backup and recovery can provide that solution.
How BlueXP Backup and Recovery Makes Backing Up EHR Data Easier and More Secure
BlueXP backup and recovery provides a more robust method to protect EHR system data stored in ONTAP. BlueXP backup and recovery can easily protect your data from deletion or corruption, while making sure that if data loss occurs, you can quickly recover your data with a backup and recovery process that is direct and on the block level.
- 3-2-1 Backup Strategy Alignment
BlueXP backup and recovery can help easily align with the 3-2-1 backup strategy by creating a third object-based copy of the data that is both stored in a different format and in a separate location—either in the cloud or on-prem in separate NetApp StorageGRID appliances.
- Cloud Extensibility and Scaling
To handle your rapidly growing backup data sets, BlueXP backup and recovery leverages the cloud to store backups in a cloud-based object storage service: Amazon S3 storage in AWS, Azure Blob storage, and Google Cloud Storage. Leveraging this feature allows for off-site data protection, ensuring that data is available and protected. This hybrid cloud architecture allows for the backup process to be distributed across multiple systems, helping scale the backup and recovery of large data sets without the need to invest in additional on-premises storage infrastructure.
- Ransomware Protection with DataLock
To protect against ransomware attacks, the DataLock feature helps you create immutable backups of data that cannot be modified or deleted. This means that even if ransomware infects a system and encrypts files, the backups will remain unencrypted and can be used to restore the data.
With its ability to detect and alert any unauthorized changes to files, DataLock enables organizations to take action when a ransomware attempt is detected. Additionally, it allows setting a retention period for backups, so that backups older than a certain date can be deleted, subsequently preventing ransomware from encrypting old backups.
- Optimized Backup Processes and Costs
BlueXP backup copies preserve all of ONTAP’s storage efficiencies. This allows for more efficient use of storage capacity, reduces the time and costs associated with creating and storing backups, and improves the scalability of the backup process.
BlueXP backup and recovery creates backups on the block-level. This process occurs directly, without a media gateway server, making it faster and more efficient. Besides reducing the amount of data that needs to be transferred over the network, direct backups also make the process more secure by eliminating a single point of failure.
Additionally, the backup copies are incremental-forever and never require re-baselining. That means only changes to the data are backed up instead of copying all the data. This helps you save a significant amount of storage and network resources compared to traditional backups, while also reducing the time required to perform backups.
BlueXP backup and recovery solves the data protection and compliance requirements by offering a scalable, intelligent data protection solution for Epic software that helps align with the 3-2-1 strategy, reduce backup windows, reduce backup storage costs, and more.
Using BlueXP, businesses can confidently deploy EHR workloads knowing that their data is safe and protected without having to sacrifice storage security, performance or flexibility.
Read this blog to learn more about How to back up Epic Systems EHR databases with one command in a 3:2:1-compliant architecture.
What does EHR mean?
Electronic Health Record (EHR) is a centralized, digital repository of a patient's health information that allows healthcare providers to easily access, update, and share patient information for efficient collaboration and faster diagnosis.
What kind of data is stored in EHR?
EHRs can store a wide variety of data types related to a patient's health and medical history such as:
- Demographic information
- Medical history
- Vital signs
- Referrals and consultations
- Billing and insurance information
How is data stored in EHR?
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are digital versions of a patient's medical records and are stored in a central location, typically on a secure server or in the cloud. EHRs use a variety of formats and standards to store the data, such as HL7, CCD, and CDA. The data is organized into sections to make it easy for healthcare providers to access, and access to the data is controlled through a system of user accounts and permissions to ensure only authorized users can view and update the patient's information.