Network glitch brings down Epic EMR

Hardware failure, not EMR, to blame, officials say
By Erin McCann
10:41 AM
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Network glitch brings down Epic EMR
An IT network failure at a Florida health system has rendered the organization's $80 million Epic electronic medical record system down for the count. The outage, officials reported, lasted nearly two days. 
 
The three-hospital Martin Health System in Stuart, Fla., experienced a hardware failure that caused an unplanned downtime for the health system's Epic EMR and several other business applications. Thirteen MHS facilities were impacted by the outage. 
 
The network went down Wednesday evening, and the IT department reported Friday morning the issue had been resolved, according to officials.  
 
 
"While our EMR was affected by the hardware failure, it was not the genesis of the problem," said MHS spokesperson Scott Samples, in an emailed statement to Healthcare IT News
 
When asked how the network failure affected patient care and the ability to view and update medical records, Samples said the health system had to resort to manual documentation and charting. Moreover, when the Epic EMR was installed back in 2011, Samples said MHS developed processes "to ensure patient safety and to provide proper documentation during a protracted downtime."

One of these processes, he added, included business continuity of computer systems. 

 
"Those procedures were strictly followed and the patient care team continued operations as scheduled, with minimal delays," he said. "Throughout the downtime period, safe patient care was the team's top priority."
 
Samples said the health system is currently looking into the cause of the network failure to prevent similar events from happening in the future. 
 
 
As more health systems ditch paper to go digital, the impact of unplanned downtimes on patient care can often be even more pronounced. 
 
For instance, just last August, the 24-hospital Sutter Health in Northern California reported a similar event after the health system's $1 billion Epic EMR was inaccessible for the day due to a network glitch. 
 
According to some Sutter nurses, the downtime resulted in a significant compromise of patient care.
 
Even the backup went down, according to Hill, so even when nurses attempted to use the health system’s Pyxis medication management system to print out patient information, the data was outdated by two to three days.

"Many of the families became concerned because they noticed the patients were not getting their medications throughout the day," explained Mike Hill, RN at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and California Nurses Association union representative for the hospital. "Meds were not given for the entire day for many of the patients."

 
By some reports, the issue was caused by a Citrix glitch, but Sutter officials wouldn’t confirm the vendor. 
 
"We regret any inconvenience this may have caused patients," said Sutter spokesperson Bill Gleeson, in a statement.