Backing Up to Stay Ahead

Blue Melnick
January 22, 2008
Written by Blue Melnick
As an entrepreneur, one must learn to distinguish between smart business and good business. Running a smart business means accepting that one’s time is finite and that one’s expertise doesn’t cover everything. It becomes false economy, then, to try to handle all aspects of a business in-house. Dedicating time and energy to core functions such as serving clients and building business is smarter than allowing oneself to get bogged down with the myriad of other critical tasks.

So, what non-core functions are keeping you from running your practice the smart way? It’s likely that the necessary evils of electronic record keeping and X-ray retention rank high on the list. Outsourcing this function of your practice may just be the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Since 9/11, the outsourcing of data backup to an offsite third party has gained significant traction. And, in the medical community specifically, alarm bells have sounded loud and clear as of late. In response to the widely publicized theft of a laptop computer from the car of a physician at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children earlier this year, the Ontario Privacy Commissioner warned all health-care providers that private patient information must be properly secured.

Dr. Brian Dower, DC, of Park Road Healing Arts in Toronto, confirms: “As health- care providers in Canada, we have a legal obligation to keep patient records for a minimum of seven years. A corrupt or stolen computer would be a nightmare that would require unimaginable work to rebuild that database, and it would also require finding ways to contact countless patients. Also, because my entire practice is based on assessing and managing my patients’ health-care needs, I need to know that I have continuous and easy access to patient records. And with three chiropractors and two receptionists all using the same computers and programs, having a dedicated and fool-proof back-up system in place reduces any room for error or mistakes.”

Following, are just three of the countless smart reasons to outsource your practice’s data back-up and storage functions.

SAVE TIME AND AVOID ERRORS WITH AUTOMATIC DAILY BACKUPS

Section 9 of the Chiropractic Act, 1991 clearly states that members of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario must take all reasonable steps to ensure that records stored by electronic or optical means are “secure from loss, tampering, interference or unauthorized use or access.”

Online data back-up and recovery services fully automate the retention process, backing up your practice’s records 365 days a year to secure offsite servers. By removing the human element from the back-up process, the risk of manual errors - and negligence - is eliminated. And the best part is that you - or your busy support staff - don’t need to press a single key to encrypt and store your back-ups offsite.

As Dr. Scott Howitt of Sports Performance Centres in Toronto notes: “Our practice has critical information that needs to be protected, and automatically storing this information offsite ensures that no matter what happens at the office, our patient records are safe and can be recovered at any time.”

LIMIT DOWN-TIME TO SAVE MONEY AND YOUR REPUTATION

When your practice’s main server crashes, wiping out your electronic records, you need to retrieve the files quickly and easily. Unfortunately, traditional methods are slow and costly. A great deal of time - read: revenue - is lost in locating the appropriate recovery disks or tapes, transporting them back to your practice, mounting the tapes on your system, locating the records you need, and restoring the information. But by using an online back-up service you can restore information quickly with a few clicks of your mouse.

CUT YOUR COSTS

By outsourcing your practice’s data back-up functions, you eliminate all hardware and personnel expenses related to maintaining your own backups. You’ll no longer have to invest in costly tape drive systems, and your support staff will be freed the hours normally spent learning your back-up procedure, cleaning and rotating your back-up tapes, testing your back-up media and recovery processes, and so on. This time-savings could then be devoted to tasks designed to better manage your practice and grow your patient base.

Online backup providers charge monthly storage fees that depend entirely on the quantity of data - measured in gigabytes and the type of data you’re storing. Look for a service that stores static data - data that doesn’t change - at a significantly lower “per gigabyte” rate than dynamic data, which changes regularly. For instance, the storage of your digital X-rays should be charged at a much lower “per gigabyte” rate than the storage of your practice management records.

The record retention regulations of the Chiropractic Act, 1991, state that individual patient health records, and every financial record, must be retained for at least seven years from the patient’s last visit. As these records are no longer active, they should be considered static electronic files, and should therefore be stored at a “per gigabyte” rate that is significantly less than the cost to back up and store your active patient files.

Of course, you must evaluate the cost of outsourcing your practice’s data backup and storage. But the harsh underbelly of opportunity costs - in this case, unrecoverable electronic records - almost always tips the scales in favour of these new online back-up technologies. And the ability to bounce back quickly from a frightening critical data loss is smart business at its best.

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