Quake reveals GP patient data is potentially at risk

Patient data should be hosted in datacentres, health IT board director says

In the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, general practitioners and health organisations are being advised of the importance of adequate back-up.

In some cases, patient data was lost for days, says National Health IT Board director Graeme Osborne. “GPs must host their practice systems in proper datacentres,” he says.

Health sector organisations such as GPNZ are getting the message out to their members, he says.

“They’ve started the process. They’re leaders in their own community and we hope they will get as many messages as they can out through their networks.

“The National Health IT Board will be making a strong statement in the next two months that all health organisations need to have their health IT solutions operating from a commercial datacentre.”

Primary health organisation ProCare, which has 500 independent GPs as members, has negotiated an agreement with cloud computing service provider Cloud Region to provide datacentre hosting services.

It will host and manage practices’ requirements for desktop and patient management systems.

“ProCare has negotiated an excellent price for these services,” says Dr Karl Cole, ProCare’s clinical director of information. “The ProCare board has approved a set-up subsidy for those who sign up.

“The model allows for localisation of practices, meaning practice data and the network remain separate from all other databases. The practice will have access to their usual desktop environments and PMS system through a web browser. It connects users through the internet to a fully maintained remote system, but when being used it appears no different from the local systems.”

He says ProCare will have a testing practice, set up to the same specifications, in the cloud to test and deploy initiatives and projects.

Cloud Region, formerly ASPX, is an Auckland-based hosting company, which began hosting online travel booking systems in 2005. It now hosts applications for organisations in the travel, education and health sectors, including several GP practices. It has sub-contracted Maxnet for the provision of the physical infrastructure at Maxnet’s datacentre in Albany.

It is an obvious time for the IT industry to push for local standards, says Blackbox Backup chief executive Bryan Hall.

“You can never give 100 percent guarantees when you back up someone’s data that you have no sight of before it is backed up. However, you should have to deliver the highest possible standard of service that can be delivered for an effective cost.”

He suggests a standard should include: Location in a Tier 3 or 4 datacentre; Mirroring to two geographically separate datacentres; Encryption to 256 AES; Enterprise class software; Enterprise or equivalent servers; Data residing in New Zealand; Minimum Raid 6 deployment for the storage platforms; and Access to backed up data from any internet location.

“Perhaps InternetNZ or the Computer Society could take a lead on this,” Hall suggests.

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Tags graeme osborneNational Health IT Board

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