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Recovering patient data after flooding in Brisbane

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    Lauren Jarrett

Case study

A recent client had all their facilities completely washed out with the most recent flooding in Brisbane. They lost all their devices where in a matter of two days their place was flooded with water up to the roof and no ability to get equipment out.

Being a consultant who operates out of medical practices, their data sat integrated within the medical practice. The practice’s data was hosted on AWS and thankfully they had set up weekly backups so they would only lose at most a week’s worth of data. However the practice used the flooding as a time to upgrade their long overdue system and did not migrate all the old patient data across. As a result, my client lost access to a fair amount of patient data and was given a database export to ultimately figure it out themselves.

They approached me to get their old patient data out of the old database so that they could get historical notes to continue to treat their patients. This piece of work was significant challenge. Mapping a system from the front end to the back end is made easier when it can be run locally so you can see how the data flows through. This time, I had no front end to run locally, had never seen the system to know how things would work and the client no longer had the old system to reconcile any data. It was a challenge that would require us to work together to get their data out so that they could get their patient history.

The data recovery process was recreated from their memory and the data exploration I did which is why we iterated through until the client was confident that they had everything they needed. Realising the system upgrades over time meaning that the history was stored in several tables and not just one added an extra layer of complexity to getting all the information required. However with a bit of patience and continued exploration, we were able to find and source all the information they needed.

From there, it was a case of building reports and exports so that they could see their patients and import the data into the new system.

What did I do?

  1. Rebuild their database
  2. Explore the system and find relationships between tables
  3. Identify possible data sources that would contain their notes
    1. As this database had been used for over 10 years, the system had been upgraded so it was important to realise how the data storage had changed through time
  4. Export data into files that the client could review and verify
    1. This step was iterated a few times to ensure that we correctly mapped and exported all the data through time
  5. Create reporting and exports for the client once we had all the information required to be merged into the new sytem
  6. Destroy the newly created database and export files

How long did it take?

  • About 1 week of full time work


  • Negotiated given the changes through time in the database which meant we needed a couple of extra days to be confident we had everything.

If you are having trouble with data recovery or need help managing your data, feel free to reach out and get in touch!