in HIPAA Headlines by John Brewer

Here I am, stuck in the middle with you…
Great Steve Miller band lyrics.

When it comes to Electronic Health Records (EHR) vendors, unfortunately I haven’t dealt with many winners.

To clarify, yes we deal with HIPAA compliance.

We also have a division that deals with medical IT support.

This week is a major upgrade to a clients’ system.

Wipe out a server, put latest version of Windows Server on it.

Anytime you upgrade a server like this it is a big deal.

Not because it is difficult, but because of the “no turning back” seriousness of it.

2 weeks prior to the rebuild, we contacted the vendor to get exactly what they needed backup up.

Obviously the database.

What else?

More nagging emails went out and were not answered.

Finally 2 days before an email is sent to the CEO of the vendor.

The night before having still heard nothing, we played it conservative and began to backup EVERYTHING.

That only took 4 hours.

The next morning the vendor sent an email:

Be sure to backup A folder and the MSSQL/backup folder.
Also be sure to run our SQL backup job before backing up the folder.

Hmm, that’s it?  Great, we already backed up the extras folder.

Next we ran the SQL backup job.  Then my SQL expert (my wife) also ran her own SQL backup job.

At this point we have 5 backup copies of the SQL database in various locations.

I’m feeling good about this.

Server upgrade complete.

Now the vendor calls and says the database backup is corrupt.

Side Note: If nobody has explained to you the importance of your EHR database let me be clear: it IS your business.
You better have the EHR database back up 3 ways to midnight, automatically and monitored…again, it IS your business.

Having a backup is pure smart business, but when you have to go to it…let’s just say your palms get a bit sweaty.

As I start to formulate options I call my wife to look into this.

She grabs her backup and restores it just fine.
This tells me their backup job is broken.

Tragedy averted.

30 minutes later the phone rings.

My assistant give one of those: “please hold on, this is above my pay grade” remarks which is unsettling, especially with a major project occuring.

I speak with the vendor technician.

Vendor tech: “The database is fine, good thing for that backup”
Me: “Yes, we had multiple backup copies.  I think your backup job may have an error, you might want to look at that.”
Vendor tech: “Thanks.  Did you backup directories X, Y and Z?”
Me: “No. You only mentioned A and MSSQL/backup”.
Vendor tech: “Yea, well, we probably should have been clearer on that.”
Me: “Clearer? You only told us to backup 2 folders.”
Vendor tech: “Well, I moved some items to folder A in the morning and thought you would back it up.”
Me: “We backed it all up last night.  You didn’t tell us to backup the next day.”
Vendor tech: “Yea, I should have mentioned that.”

This conversation continued with me trying to not become caustic.

What’s my point?

This EHR vendor is a big company.

They have ZERO checklist for doing upgrades.

I don’t care if you feel like you can sue a company for their buffoonery, if you lose your database in an upgrade process, it will hurt you.
You won’t have the money you need to sue that vendor.

Be ultra prepared and have multiple database backups that were prepared in different ways before you start the process.

Oh, and for those of you that think a cloud based system will not have these issues…they will, you just may not know about it.

About John Brewer

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