Business continuity is vital in every sector and industry, but perhaps none more than the healthcare industry. Over the last couple of years, the need for business continuity management has become ever so apparent. Be it from past experiences such as the 2007 floods, the H1N1 pandemic, the emergence of formal guidelines and standards or the COVID 19 pandemic – the importance of a robust NHS is there for all to see.
In this article, we will look at why the NHS needs business continuity, the aim of business continuity in the NHS and the steps you need to take.
Why Business Continuity in Healthcare is So Important
According to a 2016 report by Security Score Card, healthcare ranked 9th in overall security in comparison to other industries. Additionally, 1 in 4 healthcare organisations has been hit by a ransomware attack. The most prominent example being the WannaCry ransomware that cost the NHS upwards of £92m in damages. With increased risks, both natural and manmade, the threat is clear. When such disasters strike, medical professionals and organisations need to have the ability to regain immediate access to critical patient data. If the data is corrupted, stolen, lost or unrecoverable over a prolonged period of time, the impact can be costly both from a business and medical perspective.
We all appreciate the role of a good healthcare system. However, healthcare systems and organisations are incredibly complex. This leaves systems like the NHS open and vulnerable to countless risks. According to the Security Score Card, the most common vulnerabilities in healthcare include;
- Lack of system patching due to lax protocols for updating operating systems and applications.
- Inadequate cybersecurity training. Healthcare is one of the leading industries that are prey to malicious email attacks.
- Weak password. Most healthcare organisations have lax password management policies that make it easy for hackers to access their systems and applications.
- Unprotected devices. In a vastly interconnected world, some advanced medical devices connected to the internet, unfortunately, lack sufficient cybersecurity protection measures.
- Outdated data backup systems. Although a change in the healthcare industry does take some time, some organisations have taken too long to upgrade to more advanced data backup solutions that could negate the effects of data loss or corruption.
Above are some of the many reasons that have necessitated the introduction of the NHS England Business Continuity Management Framework.
The Aim of Business Continuity in the NHS
Compliance with the Law
Business continuity is now mandatory in all NHS organisations. Under the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, all NHS organisations have a duty and obligation to implement continuity arrangements as set out in the NHS England Core Standards for Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR). This framework gives organisations the ability to identify and manage risks that could disrupt normal service. It also obligates them to maintain services at set standards in case of any disruption or recover services to these standards in the least possible time.
The consequences of any disaster, be it a virus, flood, power surge, fire or cyber-attack, can be fatal. Consider a high dependency unit with patients who require constant monitoring to adjust what medication they need, in what dosage, keep track of the latest systems, what has worked and so on. If this data was lost, corrupted or couldn’t be accessed in a prolonged time, the consequences could be life-threatening. Having a dependable business continuity management plan ensures that critical medical data can be restored almost instantly to maintain vital care to patients.
Protect Sensitive Data
Electronic personal health information (e-PHI), is incredibly personal and sensitive. In most cases, this information needs to be accessed from multiple sources across vendors and locations which increases the risk of it being compromised. A business continuity plan implements technology that regularly backs up data, checks it for integrity and also encrypts it to reduce the risk of unauthorised access. In addition to protecting PHI, it also maintains the security of the entire organisation.
The well-being and proper care of patients are undoubtedly very important. However, the bottom-line impact on NHS organisations as business entities is also very important. A loss of data regardless of duration or volume can be extremely expensive – both directly and indirectly. There is also the issue of downtime which can grind operations to a near halt, spike operating costs and damage goodwill. It doesn’t help that the cost of downtime rises with each passing minute. Business continuity ensures that healthcare organisations can maintain an acceptable level of service in the face of a disaster or at least recover to an acceptable level almost instantly.
It is not hard to see why all NHS organisations are required to have business continuity management plans. The benefits, both to the organisations and the patients are evident. At AdEPT, we have seasoned IT consultants who have worked with and provided training for a wide range of NHS organisations for many years. Contact us today to learn more about Business Continuity planning, training and implementation from the leading business solutions firm in the UK.