At Calysta EMR, we understand the enormous responsibility that comes with managing sensitive patient health information. As aesthetic providers, you put your trust in our platform to protect confidential patient records. A key way we safeguard this data is through comprehensive, frequent backups of our entire EHR system.
Your patients' health records contain some of the most sensitive personal information imaginable - medical histories, treatment plans, diagnoses, lab results, prescriptions, and more. This sensitive data is entrusted to your healthcare organization when a patient enters your care.
As electronic health records become ubiquitous, properly safeguarding the privacy and availability of EHR systems is paramount.
This article will dive into these critical questions to help you implement robust EHR backup strategies.
Daily backups are considered the absolute minimum standard for EHR systems, according to healthcare IT experts. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) states in its guide to HIPAA security for small healthcare practices that daily backups should be implemented "at a bare minimum" for EHR servers. However, in many cases more frequent backups may be warranted:
In addition to frequent backup cycles, regularly testing restores is essential to validate that backups are capturing EHR system state correctly. You should aim to test restores on isolated environments on at least a monthly basis. Only by proving you can reliably restore from backups can you trust in their integrity when needed most.
Healthcare organizations have several options for implementing EHR system backups. Details about key methods are outlined in the table below:
|Physical Offline Backups
|Back up to removable media like external hard drives, tape cartridges, CD/DVDs. Media can then be stored securely offsite for recovery from disasters.
|Data isolated from network attacks. Long media lifespan if stored properly. Low cost.
|Manual process. Physical media can degrade or be damaged. Restores are slower.
|Replicate EHR backup data to secured cloud storage environments. Leading cloud providers meet HIPAA compliance standards.
|Automated backups. Scalable capacity. Accessible from anywhere. Secured data centers.
|Dependent on internet connection. Higher costs for large volumes of backup data.
|Real-time/Continuous Data Protection
|Backup software continuously captures EHR database changes rather than periodic snapshots. Enables "rewinding" to any point in time.
|Minimal data loss in outages. Streamlines restores.
|Complex to set up and manage. Higher software and storage costs.
|Application-Based EHR Backup
|Many EHR system vendors provide their own backup solutions tailored specifically for healthcare data needs.
|Tightly integrated for smooth backups/restores. Optimized for EHR data models.
|Vendor dependence and cost. Mixed reviews on reliability.
For optimal resilience, a hybrid approach combining the strengths of multiple methods is recommended. Critical patient data demands redundancy to guarantee recoverability.
HIPAA does not mandate a specific retention period for EHR system backups. However, your backups are useless if they do not allow you to fully recover patient data and operations when needed. Some key factors influencing EHR backup retention include:
The criticality of your EHR system availability and the sensitivity of patient medical data necessitates retaining substantial history in your backups. Set retention periods that truly meet your organizational requirements for safeguarding HIPAA-protected health information.
HIPAA guidelines expect healthcare organizations to have appropriate EHR system backup procedures in place, but don't mandate a specific frequency. Many providers assume daily backups are sufficient. However, for busy practices that enter high volumes of new patient data each day, daily backups can mean losing valuable information.
Our recommendation is hourly backups as a best practice. This helps minimize disruptions and data loss in the rare cases when our systems experience outages. For high-velocity environments like leading aesthetic practices, more frequent backups capture important point-in-time system snapshots.
Calysta was founded on continuously evolving to meet the needs of aesthetic practices. Our exceptional backup protocols resulted from listening to providers' concerns around EHR availability and data protection. We view backup processes as critical components that empower our users, not just technical details.