Your System Is Only as Good as Your Redundancy

There’s a phrase my father used to use, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” He usually applied it when planning personal affairs and anticipating health outcomes, but it’s a great wisdom to apply to the business side of healthcare, too.

Within a hospital or health system, the communication infrastructure is the nervous system that transports information between points A and B. From code calls and consultations to patient discharge orders, everything relies on effective communication between staff members, usually with multiple forms of technology in the middle. A lot of these communications are critical, and many of my customers are adding system redundancy to provide continuity in case the worst happens.

The workflows Spok is a part of are critical to what hospitals do: initiate code calls, send patient monitoring alerts directly to staff, notify providers quickly of critical test results, coordinate emergency notifications, and more. Hospitals must ensure that these communications remain uninterrupted.

So how does redundancy help? Several of my customer hospitals are currently upgrading their software, and they can’t allow the Spok system to be down for even an hour – it’s too critical. Having redundant systems lets them upgrade the production system while relying on the backup system for continuity. I also talk to customers about redundancy for reliability if they have a multi-site health system. A redundant system in their data centers means that if something goes wrong with one location, it doesn’t disable communications at all hospitals.

The decision of whether to purchase a redundant system is not always an easy one because it’s a significant investment. The choice ultimately comes down to risk management. Some of my customers have purchased redundancy because they are in areas at high risk for natural disasters such as hurricanes, and the cost of system failure would be disastrous.

When hospitals choose to implement redundant systems as a part of their communication initiatives, they are doing precisely what my father coached me on: hoping for the best, but planning for the worst.

What’s your communication back-up plan? What is your worst-case scenario, and how are you planning for it?