Tips for healthcare organizations to maintain reliable patient services by ensuring power uptime across critical IT systems

By Ed Spears

As health IT teams emerge from the dog days of summer, they may not find much reprieve on the other side. Not at least when it comes to storm season. The most activity in the Atlantic hurricane season occurs between mid-August and mid-October, with the peak typically coming in September—putting disaster avoidance front and center on the priority list.  

Considering the impact that major weather events can have on critical infrastructure, it’s a good time for healthcare organizations and their IT leaders to assess the strength of their existing strategies to avoid downtime. Making the right moves now can help organizations protect critical IT components that serve as the foundation for delivery of reliable patient care.  

Multiple Layers of Power Urgency  

Downtime has been a costly issue for the healthcare industry, with research showing that facilities face costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per event. However, the dangers take on even greater importance when it comes to the impact on patient care as an unplanned outage could lead to appointment cancellations or even jeopardize active medical procedures.  

In the modern healthcare environment, where organizations are evolving to more distributed, interconnected IT environments that incorporate multiple systems and facilities—prevention and visibility are key factors in maintaining uptime. Hospitals and healthcare organizations of all sizes should take a customized approach to accommodating the needs of their environment, weighing the potential dangers that severe weather and other unforeseen events could pose to operations. 

An integrated power management strategy that utilizes an uninterruptible power system (UPS) as the anchor for reliable backup power can help facilities improve resiliency in the face of weather threats and other potential dangers.  

Advanced Options for Greater Power Protection  

As part of an integrated power management solution, a UPS should be coupled with a comprehensive service strategy to ensure the system and its components are functioning properly. After all, a UPS provides the instrumental bridge to generator power in the event of a power outage. Healthcare organizations will want to make sure the system is always ready to spring into action when the unexpected occurs.  

To get the most out of a UPS and optimize backup power strategies, there are also several advancements that IT teams may want to consider in improving service life and enhancing ease of maintenance in their facilities. A UPS deployed with lithium-ion battery technology offers an eight-to-15-year life cycle compared to traditional valve regulated lead-acid batteries—which generally need to be replaced every three to six years. With a lithium-ion solution, IT staffs can reduce maintenance time spent on UPS or battery replacements that could potentially stall service operations.  

Additionally, disaster avoidance software is an invaluable resource for healthcare organizations to oversee status across multiple sites and facilities. Software applications are integrated with power management devices to enable a proactive approach to the remote management of critical infrastructure. The solutions can be combined with advanced capabilities, such as predictive analytics services, that offer insights on power trends over time, allowing IT teams to use the data to make better decisions and create efficiencies in their operations through proactive maintenance. 

An End-to-End Security Strategy  

As IT teams add devices like UPSs to their network amid the decentralization of IT, it’s important to make sure this equipment is being adequately protected from cyberthreats – especially considering the rise of ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations. Organizations should seek out technologies certified to meet cybersecurity standards (such as UL 2900-1 and IEC 62443-4-2) to help protect UPSs against potential attacks. Integrated network cards can also be utilized to improve cybersecurity and enhance connectivity while integrating with disaster avoidance software and other connected devices. 

Healthcare organizations should be also cognizant they they’re deploying medical-grade quality in equipment across their power management infrastructure. Leveraging healthcare-compliant components, including surge protectors and power strips, will help ensure a well-rounded strategy that stays up to snuff on performance and safety standards. 

Quiet the Storm  

As peak storm season approaches, it’s important to consider how extreme weather can impact underlying IT systems that support patient services. Significant events, from hurricanes and powerful thunderstorms to heavy rains and snowfalls, can all cause debilitating outages for facilities that aren’t prepared. By taking steps now to seal up on disaster avoidance, healthcare organizations can ensure they’re in their best position to keep their systems running for continuous, quality patient care.  

Ed Spears is technical marketing manager for Eaton. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at editor@24x7mag.com.