Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Building Resiliency: Ensuring Business Continuity Is on the Health Care Agenda

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Building Resiliency: Ensuring Business Continuity Is on the Health Care Agenda

Article excerpt


In light of recent disasters and terrorist attacks, private and public organisations alike are becoming increasingly concerned with their ability to continue operating in spite of unforeseen events. This paper describes a project conducted at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital to develop a Business Continuity Management (BCM) Framework, and outlines the learning experience. It provides a Framework and describes the key issues to be considered when initiating BCM in a health organisation, concluding that a project management approach can be used to establish a framework for BCM.

Aust Health Rev 2008: 32(1): 161-173

ORGANISATIONS ARE BECOMING increasingly concerned with their ability to continue serving their customers in spite of unforeseen events. Terrorist activities, tsunamis, mudslides, long-term power outages and threat of an avian flu pandemic have contributed to the unease around disaster recovery. Locally, it has been suggested that Australians are known to take a "wait and see" approach favoured by the mentality that "it won't happen to me".1 Whether out of ignorance, lack of resources or lack of clarity around the direct business threat, failing to address the issue of service continuity puts many organisations at risk.1 Hysteria around a possible disaster also places business in a vulnerable position. For example, employees' response to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak in 2003 resulted in large scale absenteeism as workers feared the worst for their children and family.2 Literature in the area of disaster recovery and business continuity calls for improved business preparedness and planning.3"8

The most recent wide-scale evidence of disaster planning in the Australian health sector was seen in the preparation for the year 2000 ("Y2K"). This approach was coordinated by government, resulting in prescriptive strategies aimed at the continuation of services. However, there are concerns with the ability of Y2K planning to address today's threats. New York State Tax and Finance made the post September 11 statement that "While we had business continuity plans for Y2K, they were specific to Y2K, not generic".9 The issue with existing Y2K plans stems from the principle that all scenarios anticipated at the time could be linked back to a single failure involving the date function inherent within the technology. Therefore, of the plans developed at the time, even those which were kept current may be inadequate to carry an organisation through a wider range of outages.

Given the diverse nature of emerging threats around the globe, Australian health services, which are now largely risk management savvy, are attempting to tackle these risks. We suggest that the management of consequences that arise from a multitude of sources relies on a set of principles of BCM.10 BCM, supported by government, must be a priority for health service organisations in Australia.

Defining BCM

BCM is a decision-making process aimed at minimising business loss and maximising business recovery and continuance following any disaster that may occur at any time.11 BCM has evolved beyond information technology disaster recovery plans and uses a whole-of-business approach to service continuity and recovery.12,13 BCM's relationship to risk management continues to be debated within BCM circles.14 We define BCM as a sub-set of risk management, in the sense that the absence of business continuity plans poses obvious risks to an organisation (Box 1). However, where risk analysis considers the source of risk, including both the likelihood and consequence, BCM focuses solely on the impact of an outage and the continuation of business after the outage has occurred. BCM should not be scenario based - it does not require a disrupting scenario to be envisaged. Thompson suggests that "scenario planning" is one of the nine deadly sins of BCM. "BCM is far more than that, providing a holistic understanding of what the business actually does, how it does it and what it needs to do it". …

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