I talk to a lot of healthcare organizations that are embracing the cloud. They see it as a practical and cost-effective way to meet the intense demands of managing the staggering amount of patient data — and of course, medical imaging is the biggest contributor. But what more and more organizations are finding is that the cloud can also be a lifesaver in the event of a disaster, or in the event their Picture Archive Communications System (PACS) goes down.

A recent survey from Healthcare Data Management (HDM) points out that the health care industry worldwide generates approximately 30 percent of the world’s data, “a massive amount that increases day after day.”  What I find interesting is that the survey goes on to report that 65 percent of respondents said their data volumes had increased over the previous year with only 26 percent reported having “robust, tried-and-tested” disaster recovery plans in place.

That means 74% have no disaster recovery plan in place.  Yikes!

The traditional backup approach isn’t enough

Now we all know disaster recovery plans are more encompassing than just a storage back-up plan.  But believe it or not, there are a lot of hospitals using tape as their disaster recovery back up.  So that means that if they lose their primary PACS and need to pull a medical image from the archive, they have to restore from tape first .Then there’s the health system whose DR plan is to have a second copy of their medical imaging data in the same data center as their primary copy—not a good plan.  These are just two scenarios that leave health care organizations and their patients vulnerable.

Now, there are “real” reasons for sticking with the old methods — and the primary one is cost.  While we spend a disproportionate amount of our GDP on healthcare, the healthcare industry has been the most financially strapped and therefore one of the slowest to adopt and innovate through the use of technology.

Cloud to the rescue

So what’s the answer to help the 74 percent of hospitals without a disaster recovery plan in place?  Clearly the only option these financially strapped health care organizations could consider is one that is cost-effective.  One that allows them to avoid costly capital investments in technology they will have to eventually replace.  One that allows them to pay as they go – incurring costs as they are reimbursed for the imaging procedure.  One that allows them to avoid the disaster of clinicians not having access to patient medical images.

To me, the only option is the cloud.  The cloud can ensure clinicians have access to patient images – in the event of natural disaster or in the event of an IT disaster.  Using the cloud, healthcare organizations can ensure clinical operations continue even during an IT disaster by having access to a highly-secure, non-proprietary, copy of their medical images.  Using the cloud for disaster avoidance and recovery can bring three benefits to health care – cost efficiency, security and true clinical continuity. The cloud may not be the only option for the many hospitals lacking a disaster recovery plan, but in my opinion, it is the best and most cost-effective option.

What do you think?