Lesson’s Learned From Delta Airline’s Unplanned Downtime

No Lives Lost – Possibly a Different Story for Healthcare

Nearly a month ago, Delta Airlines’ main and ancillary systems experienced a crippling downtime grounding thousands of flights and stranding tens of thousands of passengers.  It took nearly a week to get the systems fully back up and running with days of finger pointing on fault of the originating problem.  The final outcome and crux of the entire problem actually was  spurred from Delta performing a routine downtime test early morning of Monday, August eighth, when flights would be at a minimum.  At 2:38 am they initiated switchover to backup power; the system never switched and could not be switched back to main grid power.  Outcome, Delta’s reservation and ticketing system was down; along with all ancillary systems.

Hastily acquisitions and expensive technology systems poorly integrated together to finish company mergers means a higher chance of system failures in the future.  While no passenger lives were lost and mid air flights were able to land safely, this might not be the case in clinical systems in our current state healthcare market segment.  Transformations in how we deliver care, shifts in reimbursements for the outcome of quality care are resulting in a mass of hospital mergers never seen before in history.  Hospitals, medical groups, pharmaceuticals, health insurance and retail health/drug totaled acquisitions of over $240 billion in 2015.  Unlike pharmacology and insurance companies that have resources to integrate their newly merged partners systems, hospitals and airlines have razor thin margins.  Even worst community hospitals serving critical services to rural communities being purchased or closing their doors.

For many organizations, system downtimes only come to light when the failure takes place.  With healthcare information technology regulations increasing and dwindling profit margins,  downtimes are going to be more relevant.  The irony of Delta Airline’s systems failure was due to testing their downtime protocol that exposed a failure in a power switch that prevented backup generators or main grid power to keep their systems live.  Healthcare security overall is very weak, protected patient information and the fear of ransomware keeps many a healthcare CIO awake at night.  While we cannot be ready for every possible outcome, a well prepared, 80/20 percent rule, downtime protocol saves the day.  We just need to remember, patient safety and lives are the of the top most importance. ~ RCM