More EMR Data Backups

Many of you will remember my post making the case for in house EMR backups versus SaaS EMR backups. It was my first swing at my favorite part of blogging. I personally call it blog sparring. Basically, two (or more) bloggers discussing various viewpoints about a certain issue (I welcome other bloggers to join in).

Well, Lyndsey from Nuesoft brought the President and CEO, Massoud Aibakhsh, in on the fun in a post they called, “Continuing the Discussion…Data Backups: Leave it to the Experts.”

I appreciate Massoud’s response and he does make some interesting points about what is possible when a SaaS EMR vendor does the backups correctly. There’s no doubt that a SaaS EMR provider has more resources available to do a more robust backup, disaster recovery and business continuity plan than a small doctors office with a single server. His points about possible HIPAA breaches are also worthy of serious consideration. However, that kind of avoids a discussion of the points I made about relying on your SaaS EMR vendor to do the backup.

Nuesoft, why don’t you offer your end users a nice single click download of all their patient data which a doctors office could store in a nice HIPAA secured place in their office weekly/monthly or some other reasonable amount of time? Then, you’ll have the best of both worlds for a doctor’s office. They have your enterprise level backup, availability and load balancing and they’ll have a local copy of their data which helps them sleep better at night knowing it’s safely stored away in their office.

Of course, I’m not really trying to single out Nuesoft. I don’t know ANY SaaS EMR vendor that provides this service and that’s really unfortunate. Who’s going to be the first EMR software company to step up and provide this kind of support to the doctors?

If you’re really brave, you’ll even provide it in a format that they can extract the data themselves should they so desire (say if your company gets bought by someone else). I actually believe I heard of one EMR vendor that does this (client server though). They provide all of the data from their EMR in a nice exportable XML file which could easily be maninipulated.

I’m sure many in the room reading this will say, but what about vendor lock in? Why would I as an EMR vendor make it easy for my users to export their data out of my system? If I do that, they might *gasp* leave for another EMR vendor.

I of course asked the above mentioned EMR vendor about this problem. Their answer was a confident, “there are some that might leave because it’s easy to leave, but so far people have no reason to leave our EMR because they like it so much.” Kind of an interesting concept. Make an EMR that people love so much that they have no reason to change even though the door is open.

Granted, I’m not naive enough to think that some won’t leave. I’ve heard many a horror story of doctors leaving an EMR (for good reason or not) and then realizing that the grass wasn’t greener on the other EMR vendor side. Many of these doctors end up heading right back to their old EMR vendor.

One day a SaaS EMR vendor is going to revolutionize the backup process for their end users and start providing this level of data backup to their users. I know I’d be impressed with a SaaS EMR vendor that had that much faith in their product that they’ll give you a regular export (backup) of all the clinic’s data.

Now, back to some other comments from the Nuesoft post. In it, you asked me, “Do you seriously think banks use some of the services you mentioned to back up financial data?”

Well of course banks don’t use the services I mention to back up their financial data. Although, find me a bank that has 1 banker and 6 employees and I’ll show you a bank that uses the services I mention to backup their data.

At the end of the day. Let me liberally use a quote from the movie Shrek:

Shrek: Backups are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. no.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave them out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin little white hairs.
Shrek: NO. Layers. Onions have layers.

Yep, backups are all about layers. The more layers of backup you have, the happier you’ll be. I know there’s been a number of times in my IT career that I’ve had to go to my 2nd, 3rd and 4th options to recover all the data from various backups I’d done. The more well designed layers of backup you have, the happier you’ll be if (when?) disaster hits.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Here’s some food for thought. Why don’t the EMR vendors have an add-on service (for a fee) where a third party (Iron Mountain, etc.) backs up the practices data to their remote site. This mitigates most of the risk already disussed, though it adds some too. Thoughts?

  • Certainly one of the options Steve. In fact, I think something similar was suggested in one of the previous posts. Although, now that I think about it, I think it was a client server EMR and not a SaaS EMR that was doing that sort of integration. The possibility is still interesting and removes the problem of the doctor’s office bandwidth limitations.

  • As to “taking their data and going to another vendor”… That would require some kind of standard data format. Banking financial data would surely follow an industry standard. EMR data? — I don’t think so!

  • David,
    Actually, it doesn’t necessarily require a standard format. Sure, a standard format would make it much easier, but you could map the fields and export the data. Not a fun process (nor perfect) but I know a number of places who have done this without any help from the previous vendor.

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