Flood-stricken doctors probe cloud back-up

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Flood-stricken doctors probe cloud back-up

At least a dozen flood-impacted GP's lose all patient data.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has advised its 1000+ flood-affected members to take specific steps around the restoration of damaged servers to ensure practices are able to retain vital medical records.

RACGG – the safety and quality professional body for GPs – has distributed an IT system flowchart [pdf], among other documents, to provide clear advice on how best to restore systems.

"This will be a time that will test the disaster recovery and business continuity planning of many general practices,” said Professor Claire Jackson, RACGP President and GP in Brisbane.

RACAG's health informatics specialist Dr Nathan Pinskier told iTnews that it was too early to assess how robust and reliable back-up systems had worked.

"Probably a few hundred practices were affected,” he said. “We know of at least a dozen or so that had lost all their data.”

As a professional involved with computer security guidelines over the last seven years, Pinskier said a cloud-based storage and back-ups would have saved some of this data, but noted that cloud storage standards were still immature.

"If a practice can be relieved of computing and back-ups complexity, I think many would jump at the opportunity to have a simple cloud-based solution," he said.

On the other hand, moving to the cloud means you are actually losing control of the data at a local level, Pinksier said.

"When a practitioner backs up the data locally - they know what's happening. They have control.  When you move into a cloud environment, you have to have confidence in that environment".

This meant ensuring improvements in the quality of the internet, which is driven by the NBN, he said.

"GPs in some of our local areas, particularly the more rural and remote, get down to very slow download speeds."

The other concern for GPs was that the systems to move to cloud-based computing at yet did not exist.

"The College is working around standards for businesses around cloud-based computing. By and large they don't readily exist. We have a lot of disparate data-based systems provided by a lot of different vendors with a lot of different standards in different database solutions. So for the average practice to sign up to a cloud-based data storage system - at the moment that’s not available."

Pinksier added that his Melbourne practice had moved to cloud-based storage some three years ago.

"In all my practices, we actually do back-up to the cloud. If we have flood, fire or theft in our practice - provided the back-ups were made the night before - any of my staff could grab a laptop the following morning, log into our VPN and have access to the complete data set from the previous day."

He said the next step for the College was to explore how such individual solutions for cloud-based computing operate and scale them so they are more broadly available.

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