Ensuring you have a process for backing up data is essential because if your systems fail or become disrupted and your access to the data is lost, this could have an impact on the running of your pharmacy.
Impacts if systems crash
Losing information from your local pharmacy system in the event of a system outage could majorly impact your pharmacy if you do not have a very-recent back-up. The impacts could relate to:
- Reimbursement: Loss of locally held data is critical as there could be risk of payment delays if there is a loss of electronic prescription information before reimbursement claims have been submitted to the Pricing Authority;
- Data protection compliance – and meeting NHS information governance requirements;
- Workload for pharmacy staff; and
- Customer service for patients – the quality of service may be reduced causing some patients to potentially consider whether to use a different pharmacy.
Back-up options and tips
You may use cloud systems to store important files which you would not want to use if your computer was broken. NHSmail SharePoint / OneDrive or alternative options can be considered if these have been switched on and appropriately authorised for use within your pharmacy.
Different PMR system suppliers may offer different PMR back-up solutions including any or all of the below:
- Locally held – pharmacy-managed local daily back-up on to disk or USB stick;
- Centrally managed solutions that support automated secure storage of back-up information at an off-site location every evening; or
- Monitoring controls which might issue alerts if back-ups are not made within a defined time period.
It is worth spending some time to review whether your current solution is still sufficient in case of future risks.
NCSC provided five tips within its Backing up data guide for businesses:
- identify what data you need to back up (e.g. PMR data);
- keep a backup separate from your computer;
- consider the cloud;
- consider cloud security guidance; and
- make backing up part of your everyday business (whether automated or manual)
Consider PMR backup systems and whether additional backup solutions are required if other types of data loss could occur with other technical outages.
Additional tips for selecting or changing your backup provider/solution:
- Reputation: Does the provider have a history of high service quality? Ask for case studies, customer references and consider speaking with some customers to better understand the vendor’s reputation.
- Flexibility: Whether you have Windows PCs, laptops or work mobile devices, consider whether the data which needs backing up can be adjusted easily when the staff number within the pharmacy changes and the number of devices changes.
- Security: The provider may provide information within their public privacy notice, within policy documentation and within the proposed contract.
- Accessibility: If the provider backs up data from a device and the device crashes, how quickly will they be able to revert to backed-update? Traditional tape methods can sometimes limit the direct access pharmacy contractors have to their backups and can delay restore times.
Note: PMR suppliers may have a number of offerings regarding the PMR backups. Are you familiar with how accessible the backups will be, if you need these?
- Cost-effectiveness: Consider the cost of the solution and changes which could occur to the cost if there are changes to which machines or data needs backing up. Consider not just the basic cost for the services but also the time and resource required for the implementation. E.g. tape backups can result additional staff hours each week. Cloud based solutions can incur price jumps as the volume of data stored grows.
- Ease of use: A solution or service which is complicated to use is often one that will consume the available time and resource of your IT teams. Similarly, not knowing what backups have been performed as required or not having an awareness of any potential problems can have a devastating impact on your pharmacy in the event of major crash.
- Customer Support: There is no telling when something could go wrong – during an evening or weekend. So knowing what level of support you’ll receive from your backup service provider when you need them most is essential. Can they be reached by phone or just email? Do they keep 9am-5pm hours or in your time of need will have some emergency support 24/7?
The Data Security and Protection Toolkit (DSPTK) includes questions about backups. Pharmacy guidance is at: https://psnc.org.uk/dsptk.
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