Terra Firma Could Thwart HC Terror

Posted on June 26, 2013


Fast Company’s May issue highlights how some companies like Iron Mountain and Google handle operations risk that exist around their cloud services, or data-processing and storage based on remote server locations. The concerns these Wall Street leaders have center around disruption due to:

• Terrorism (physical, biological, chemical)
• Heat
• Adverse weather
• Power interruption

Note these four items are also issues for hospitals. What are some infrastructure decisions a company like Microsoft thinks it can invest in to avoid the above threats? The article notes five:

1. Mine – reusing a limestone mine; secure entrance; constant naturally low temperature; weather a non-issue

2. Cave – natural protection from weather; constant temperature; very safely underground

3. Bunker – retrofit an old military structure; safe against man-made attack; high-tech sensors and protections built-in

4. Off-Grid – building without reliance on conventional utilities (uses methane gas); can operate independently if utilities interrupted

5. Scattered – dispersal of buildings (in relatively rural, unknown locations); reduces risk geographically and through redundancy

Based on these approaches hospitals, I think, are behind the curve—but they don’t need to be. At first glance, triple redundancy for power supply may appear extreme. Repurposing a Cold War-era defense bunker may seem anachronistic or even ironic given today’s technologies. However with appropriate strategy, these are very effective, smart investments on many levels.

As healthcare data becomes more available, healthcare will be consumer-driven based on track records of healing and performance. Convenience may still be important, but patients will be “buying” on other factors, too. Assurance is a strong selling point because it is emotional and trust-based. To paraphrase Rabbi Kushner in his famous book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”: in a crisis, people want assurance.

I think back to Federal Express, the first company to guarantee delivery of a package anywhere overnight—quite a feat. One of Federal Express’s famous marketing slogans seems particularly on target in respect to this discussion: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”. A hospital administrator could borrow this message for their Board as the rationale behind any disaster-related investment:  because hospitals absolutely, positively have to be there for patients.