Assuring High Availability in Healthcare Interfacing
High availability is a term used in the software industry to indicate that the application is available and running as expected a high percentage of the time. Availability is measured in percentage of up time for the system. For example, if a system has a 24-hour expected processing time and is down 17.5 hours per year, it has a 99.8% availability.
In a modern, connected healthcare environment, high availability is absolutely critical, yet there are still occasions – both planned and unexpected – that cause downtime.
Unexpected issues are primarily caused by:
- Network problems, such as switch or router failures
- Operating system problems, such as viruses or blue screens
- Hardware failures, such as network cards and hard drives
- Application failures, such as the inability to process any messages
There are also planned instances when an application is taken down to perform maintenance or upgrade to the latest software version. Perhaps the most common planned downtime involves OS patches.
During typical OS patches, a system could be down or very slow for up to 30 minutes. These patches typically come out once a month, and most health IT departments don’t have regularly scheduled outages more than once a quarter.
Outages, whether they are planned or unexpected, usually have the same result – patient data stops moving and is unavailable for caregivers.
Assured Availability provides a failover mechanism to a backup server that allows normal operations to continue without interruption, including:
- Message persistency
- Interface connectivity
- Automated monitoring of input/output status
- Network monitoring
- Integration with scheduled alerts
Another type of outage where Assured Availability really has proven helpful for clients is during system reconfigurations, such as upgrading a hard drive, updating firmware on a raid controller, or a full OS upgrade.
Let me illustrate how Assured Availability was able to help a customer stay up and running during a data center switch that required the main servers for their virtual environment to be offline for a brief, yet vital (aren’t they all in healthcare?), period of time.
The customer uses a cloud-based ambulatory EHR system. Their need for more server space became evident as the rollout of their EHR expanded across the entire health system. Data began to accumulate on the disk drives at a pace that demanded more future storage space for expansion. It was a real issue that needed to be addressed.
In this case, the challenge with migrating from one virtual server to another had one added difference: geography. Rather than the new hardware being located mere feet away, the hardware for the new virtual server had to be relocated to a data center all the way across the city. What needed to happen was:
- Current server needed to be shut down.
- Hard drives needed to be removed from the current location.
- Team member must physically drive the hard drives to the new location.
- Hard drives must be properly inserted into new server.
- New server must be powered up and work properly.
The process seems simple enough but what would happen to hospital operations during the one hour needed to make the switch? Enter our Assured Availability failover feature.
As soon as the current server was turned off, the A2 backup server automatically took over operations of patient data flow. Corepoint Integration Engine was able to ensure message persistency during the switch to the backup server and all connections remained interoperable with the guarantee of no lost messages.
Once the new virtual server was thoroughly tested, a failback was initiated and the new primary server began to process data as before the switch – but with the added peace of mind that the new servers are able to support future organizational growth.