Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Happens to your EHR records when a building or other infrastructure fail ?

A recent post on Healthcare IT news brings to the fore-front about trusting, but verifying what EHR vendors promise.

While electronic record keeping gives great advantage in operations; at the same time a small failure quickly expands to total systems outage.

A recent 'blackout' of a hospital's  medical records points out the inherent weaknesses of a 'systemic failure' of an offsite data source providing infrastructure for a medical or hospital practice.

A Northern California hospital has acknowledged that its electronic health record system went dark for about a week, which resulted in clinicians unable to access patient medical records and even having to postpone serious medical treatments. 

The two-hospital health system recently implemented the McKesson Paragon platform, but Chason emphasized that the EHR system was not at fault. Rather, HVAC units contained in an off-site data center were to blame after one burned out, and the other overheated soon after. Rideout Health officials did not respond to Healthcare IT News' inquiries for further details on the incident.

Who's at fault?                                   

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Despite Chason assuring reporters patient medical care was notaffected by the outage, he did acknowledge it resulted in many patients having to postpone their radiation treatments. What's more, clinicians had no electronic access to portions of their patients' records. "We talked about whether to transport and transfer patients for a long period of time," Chason was quoted in the Appeal Democrat. "There were some records that were not accessible for a period of time, but we tried to get them as quickly as we knew about them."

A patient had a nuclear heart stress test at the health system when the computer outage occurred, and as a result the test didn't get to her cardiologist until two weeks later. After examining the test results, Ferreira said clinicians determined she potentially suffered a minor heart attack and would require additional cardiac intervention efforts. This EHR outage is far from an isolated incident.

Just in August 2013, the 24-hospital Sutter Health system in Northern California reported that its $1 billion Epic electronic health record crashed due to a software glitch in the system that manages user access to the EHR. The outage lasted an entire day, with nurses saying they were unable to access medication orders and patient allergies, among other things. 

Then there was the IT network failure at the three-hospital Martin Health System in Florida, which in January 2014 reported its $80 million Epic EHR also went dark, an outage that lasted nearly two days. Clinicians at the hospital had to resort to manual charting and documentation.

Setback for Sutter, $1B EHR goes black

‘Meds were not given for the entire day for many of the patients.’

The 24-hospital Sutter Health system in Northern California was the talk of the town late August after a software glitch rendered its $1 billion Epic electronic health record system inaccessible to nurses and clinical staff throughout all Sutter locations. 
On Aug. 26 at approximately 8 a.m., the Epic EHR system failed, at which time nurses, physicians and hospital staff had no access to patient information, including what medications patients were taking or required to take and all vital patient history data, according to reports from the California Nurses Association, part of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the U.S. 

"Many of the families became concerned because they noticed the patients were not getting their medications throughout the day,” 

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