February is American Heart Month. In light of that, it seems only fitting that we should check the pulse of a challenge faced by many in Healthcare IT: disaster recovery.

In a training class several weeks ago, Ryan, an incredibly enthusiastic sales engineer, and I had a conversation about disaster recovery. “Disaster recovery is so much more than the question of, ‘Will I pass the audit?’” he began. “Buildings fall apart, water rises, systems fail, snow falls, power surges,” he explained, making imaginary drawings in the air to emphasize his points. “Anything that stops hospital operations for a period of hours is definitely a disaster.”

“The great thing is that Citrix is on top of it,” he confidently added. Ryan backed that statement with a contrasting tale of two US hospitals – one in Texas that was plagued by human error and another in the Southwest that experienced equipment failure after a power surge.

At the hospital in Texas, the IT team attempted an upgrade. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan. The result was an outage in the institution’s electronic medical records (EMR) platform. Users were prepared for the previously-agreed-upon seven-hour maintenance window and roll-back procedure. They were not equipped to deal with the 18-hour outage that actually occurred!

Then came the snowball effect. A new shift of employees arrived at the hospital. None had been warned of the initial (routine) system maintenance that should have been completed prior to their arrival.

Surgeries were cancelled. More than six hundred desktop computers were “version-updated” via central software management; however, they failed to downgrade when the EMR upgrade failed. Each of those desktops then needed to be manually-downgraded over the course of the next 24 hours.

Billing stopped for more than three days while manual entries were entered and verified.

A Citrix Workspace Suite implementation could have averted this costly disaster at several points during the timeline.

By contrast, the other hospital experienced a serious power surge. Business-as-usual was brought to a halt. Following the surge, some uninterruptible power systems did not activate. Several floors in the hospital had no power for the network infrastructure. Desktop computer systems could not be used – nor could they be relocated.

This could have been a disaster, but this hospital did have “an ace in hand” — a short term disaster recovery plan powered by Citrix Workspace Suite.

Because (Emergency Room) Tablets and smartphones were already connected to Citrix XenApp via XenMobile, connected clinicians and health care professionals had instant access to patient records, crucial data and important business applications thanks to the Citrix platform despite the fact that some of the network switches took more than an hour to come back online.

As Ryan shared his field knowledge about disaster recovery and the Healthcare Industry, four universal truths for healthcare entities bubbled up:

Having access to patient records is crucial – especially during a disaster. Loss of information or the inability to access it is disastrous. That means that file redundancy is essential in healthcare environments.

How Citrix helps: Redundancy is inherent in Citrix Sharefile. It’s auditable, secure and supports HIPAA compliance.

In healthcare environments, billing is a mission critical function that can’t stop. For a healthcare entity, aside from patient care, billing is the single most important business priority.

How Citrix helps: Thanks to Citrix Solutions for Healthcare, billing specialists can access important applications and data remotely on any device from anywhere. Not only is Citrix the foundation for clinician mobility in the form of electronic medical record (EMR) delivery, but also, Citrix Solutions for Healthcare enable seamless delivery of clinical tools and business applications – anywhere, on any device or network. (As Ryan explains it, “The Citrix infrastructure doesn’t care where you work. Citrix enables anyone to work anywhere.”)

For healthcare entities, real estate can spell disaster in a number of ways. Building systems fail. (Think heating and cooling and plumbing.) Facilities deteriorate and literally disintegrate. (Imagine mold, termites, leaky roofs and more.) Both of these scenarios cause an interruption in business continuity. In addition, there is a slightly-less obvious way in which real estate can spell d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r: financial ruin. (Think default.)

Real estate can represent as much as 40% of assets on a hospital’s balance sheet, putting serious financial strain on the fiscal health of the institution. Mobility can help alleviate the disastrous financial drain of acquiring or maintaining physical office facilities for the workforce.

Having highly-available applications is critical – even in the face of a disaster. Global server load balancing is crucial for healthcare entities so that service delivery can be controlled and managed – and if need be, reallocated — in the event of a disaster. What’s more, High Availability (HA) strategies should be put into place to ensure that during day-to-day operations, end users do not experience downtime.

How Citrix helps: With Citrix Netscaler Application Delivery Controller, server load balancing – in a disaster or during a regular business day — is seamless. Read more here. Users love Netscaler. Analysts position it as a leader in the industry. (Gartner Magic Quadrant 2015.) Netscaler is also a scalable platform for the delivery of Microsoft applications.

The combination of a Citrix technology backbone and a strategic disaster recovery strategy can help you ensure continuous productivity and guaranteed availability of IT services. Your workforce can have seamless, secure compliant access to EMRs, clinical tools and business applications. Citrix platforms will provide your healthcare team with seamless day-to-day productivity in spite of disruptions of all kinds. Citrix Solutions for Healthare facilitate a model of “IT control in the data center.” And the best part is that your disaster recovery plan can capitalize on the same infrastructure that supports day-to-day operations in your healthcare entity.

You’ll find these Citrix business continuity products indispensable in your disaster recovery planning:

Special Thanks: We’re grateful to Ryan Snedigar, the extremely-knowledgeable Citrix sales engineer who provided insight for this article. Ryan’s role at Citrix spans both engineering and consulting disciplines. He works with corporate IT leaders who are implementing productivity, mobility, and enterprise file sharing solutions. Together, they design and architect virtualized infrastructures.
To learn more about Citrix disaster recovery solutions, read this blog by Kurt Manzer and see his team’s white paper on the subject.

To learn more about clinician mobility directly from industry experts … attend the Citrix Lunch and Learn Panel Session moderated by Christian Boucher, Director Healthcare Solutions/Evangelist, Citrix:

Mobile Clinicians and IT: Partnering for Better Patient Value

HIMSS Annual Conference & Exposition
Sands Expo & Convention Center
Las Vegas, NV
Room 201
Thursday, March 3, 2016
11:30PM – 12:30PM
Click here to register for HIMSS
(A registration link for the Lunch & Learn session will be available soon.)

To learn more about Citrix Security and Compliance Solutions directly from industry experts, attend the Citrix Lunch and Learn Panel Session moderated by Kurt Roemer, Citrix Chief Security Strategist:

Beyond the Letter of the Law: Healthcare IT Security Strategies

HIMSS Annual Conference & Exposition
Sands Expo & Convention Center
Las Vegas, NV
Room 201
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
1:00PM – 2:00PM
Click here to register for HIMSS
(A registration link for the Lunch & Learn session will be available soon.)

For more information on how Citrix empowers secure mobility in healthcare, click here.
For more information on Citrix Security and Compliance technology, click here.

To learn more about the American Heart Association (and you really should), click here or you can follow them on Twitter.