Working Offline When Your EHR Isn’t Available

Posted on April 23, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many of you will likely remember my series of posts on EHR down time: Cost of EHR Down Time, Reasons Your EHR Will Go Down, and SaaS EHR Down Time vs. In House EHR Down Time. Needless to say, it’s pretty much inevitable that sooner or later you’re going to encounter EHR down time. The key to EHR down time is to think ahead about how you’re going to deal with your EHR being inaccessible.

I started thinking about this a bit more when I came across this FAQ item on Practice Fusion’s EMR user forums.

When there’s a planned maintenance ahead:
•Print your daily calendar for the next day’s schedule
•Know your offline alternatives for handling labs and prescriptions
•Have a plan to document your patient visits so you can input them in the EMR later
•Clear out your To do list and complete any pending Rx refill requests the day before
•Update your web browser and Adobe Flash to the current version

Preparing your office:
•Have a prepaid wireless 3G hub or other back-up internet system ready to go in the event your main internet is down
•Use laptops with good batteries and connect computers to surge protectors and battery back-ups for short term power interruptions
•Identify a second location that you could use temporarily in the case of a serious, long-term outage such as a fire or flood

I’ll always remember the reaction of the director of the health center where I first implemented an EMR to the discussion about “What do we do if the EMR is down?” She basically said, “We can still take care of the patient. We just might have to ask a few more questions.”

Now I’m sure there are cases where a physician might choose not to treat a patient without access to their EHR. There are certainly also cases where you can treat a patient better, faster and with more information with an EHR, but those can either be rescheduled if that’s the case. It’s certainly bad customer service and you should employ techniques to minimize EHR downtime as much as possible. My point is that it’s usually not life or death when the EHR is down. Think about how many patients are treated in an ER every day with no access to the patient’s medical record.

With that said, it is a disruption to the clinic and will be a BIG disruption to your clinic if you don’t have a solid plan of attack for when (not if) your EMR is inaccessible.

I’d focus your efforts in two areas:
•Minimize EMR Down Time
•Plan of Action for When Your EMR Goes Down

Most people do a pretty decent job with the first part. The second part people don’t often give much thought. You can start with some of the comments from Practice Fusion above to build out your plan. I also think it’s worth making a plan for short down time versus long down time. It’s quite different to deal with 5 minutes of down time than 5 days. You should consider both options.