03-22-13 | Blog Post

HIPAA in a HITECH World: Redundant Testing for High-Availability

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This morning I had the opportunity to watch a great QA team in action. The AV crew at the AHLA’s HIPAA in a HITECH World conference (where Online Tech is sponsoring and exhibiting HIPAA hosting solutions) had a systematic peer approach to test each microphone. But, they didn’t just test it one time. You never check a system that needs to be reliable just once. After one member of the team sat at each one of the 8 microphones in the room and spoke at length until the perfect balance of volume, “brightness”, and “ring” was accomplished, they went back through all the microphones again – it gave them a fresh perspective for comparison, and they were able to now balance out the sound between all of them.

Maybe this would be considered complete testing for most teams, but they weren’t finished yet. The partners of the team now switched roles, with the former microphone tester (the self-dubbed “bla bla bla-er”) now taking his turn at the sound boards with the sound board fellow now speaking in each microphone. Guess what? Different voices bring out different characteristics of the microphone, and they were able to make one more round of adjustments.

My point? After just returning from a huge conference of informatics professionals that had painfully disruptive problems with audio and video during keynote presentations, I was prepared for the worst. Maybe I was just sensitized by the super bowl outage, but it was as bad as fingernails on a chalkboard to have those brief, but still disruptive outages. Maybe that ill-fated conference just had a whole series of coincidental unforeseen issues – over and over again – that still overcame their testing, retesting, and re-retesting. But that’s the landscape that IT professionals live in. It’s not enough to check it once, or twice, or by the same person. It takes multiple, independent, well-trained eyes looking at systems with fresh eyes.

Know how you can recognize great IT teams and redundant testers? You forget about them. You don’t hear much about the things that break. You may not notice much at all, or if you do, it’s in the course proactive prevention. If they are transparent about their preventive activities, you might even think they border on paranoia about things going wrong. They’re not. They’re realists.

Hats off to the AV team at HIPAA in a HITECH World (Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel) – they set a fantastic example of engaged, systematic, and rigorous AV testing. And yes, the sound was excellent. It was easy to hear each speaker – even in the back of the room – without feedback or overwhelming volume. Of course, they stayed in attendance throughout the day, listening and making ongoing tweaks throughout the course of the presentations to adjust for variations in the speakers voices and volume, but they did all the preliminary work to make sure that the baseline of quality and reliability was already in place.

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