Jul 25 2019

What would happen to your Pharmacy’s Data if the Power Went Out?

What would happen to your Pharmacy’s Data if the Power Went Out?


Businesses across New York City received an unexpected jolt in mid-July when, of all things, the power went out.  The outage began shortly before 7pm and affected a large swath of Midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side.  Almost 75,000 residences were plunged into darkness, along with subways, Broadway shows, a Jennifer Lopez concert at Madison Square Garden and even an in-progress wedding at the Plaza Hotel.

 But for many businesses, including the dozens of affected pharmacies, a foremost concern was the possible loss of data.  Would the abrupt disruption in power affect patient records, receipt of incoming electronic prescriptions, claims processing, or pharmacy financial records? And if the outage lasted for an extended period, would it even be possible to remain open, or dispense medications to patients?

 These concerns were not without basis.  Analysis of a previous New York City blackout, which took place over August 14-15, 2003 – at that time the nation’s largest blackout to date – found the loss of power resulted in approximately 90 deaths. Researchers cited several factors that caused these deaths, including that most pharmacies were closed, “a serious problem for diabetics and anyone low on prescription medicines.”

 Forward-thinking pharmacy managers will understand the devastating impact a power outage can have, and proactively plan for a worse-case scenario.  Regular data backups must be integral to any plan, as well as the ability to access data from remote locations.  But, a pharmacy manager will quickly learn that backup capabilities can vary among technology systems.  Therefore, a manager should make no assumptions about a backup service’s capabilities, and instead should take the time to fully review a remote backup service and ask lots of questions before signing on the dotted line.

 Among the capabilities to look for:

·         Cloud storage.  All data should be uploaded to a cloud storage platform, such as Amazon EC2.  By storing data externally, a pharmacy will minimize risk of data loss should a disruption occur, and can easily access data remotely, from any Internet-enabled device.

·         Regular Backups.  Data should be backed up regularly, based on a pre-determined schedule.  And for peace of mind, a good remote backup system will generate a confirmation email each time a backup is successfully completed.  Conversely, a pharmacy manager will also be alerted should a backup fail.

·         Scalability.  A good service will allow you to contract for the amount of storage you need, no more and no less.  Should your storage needs increase, make sure your contract can be easily adjusted.

·         Firewall to ensure data security.  As cloud storage solutions have become increasingly popular, it’s important to note that not all services are the same.  While no system is foolproof, be sure to choose a cloud solution with a firewall in place to protect against nefarious attempts to access your data.

·         Customer support.  Since power outages and other disasters generally arrive with little advance notice, it’s important for a backup service to have service technicians available 24/7, and ready to assist should an emergency situation arise.

·         Cost.  A remote backup solution does not have to be a major expense.  In fact, a top-notch solution can generally be found for less than $1,000 annually.

In the aftermath of New York City’s most recent power outage, city and state officials, along with representatives from the Consolidated Edison power company have been left looking for answers.  “You just can’t have a power outage of this magnitude in this city,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.  “It is too dangerous.  The potential for public safety risk and chaos is too high. We just can’t have a system that does that – it’s that simple at the end of the day.”

 With a little advance planning and a good remote backup service in place, pharmacies can protect themselves – and their patients – from the potentially devastating impact of a sudden power outage.