Amazon AWS S3 goes down, disrupting healthcare sites and apps

AWS provides hosting services for a wide range of healthcare applications, from cloud-based EHRs to pop health analytics platforms.
By Jessica Davis
04:22 PM

On Tuesday afternoon, Amazon's S3 cloud-based hosting service experienced outages that caused a number of major websites and apps – including many across healthcare – to stop working optimally.

AWS hosts images for a range of websites, as well as entire sites and app back-ends. According to the AWS service health dashboard, the issues occurred thanks to "high error rates with S3 in US-EAST-1."

By 2:30 EST, AWS officials had "repaired the ability to update the service health dashboard." But AWS was still experiencing high error rates at the time of publication.

"We are working hard at repairing S3, believe we understand root cause and are working on implementing what we believe will remediate the issue," officials said.

AWS partners with variety of healthcare technology vendors, such as PracticeFusion, Syapse, Philips and Cognizant, to name a few.

The outage has also affected many of the nearly 150,000 websites and apps hosted by AWS, such as Quora, file sharing on Slack, Giphy and Business Insider.

Even AWS' status dashboard was affected, as the site is showing all services green despite the outages. Further, the majority of errors appear to be centralized to Virginia. AWS has data centers throughout the northern part of the state.

One EHR vendor, Doctorsoft, whose system is aimed at ophthalmology specialists, noted on Twitter that its systemd had been impacted:

Healthcare IT News has so far heard back from two vendors who'd been affected by the S3 outage to varying degrees.

AWS partner Aptible, which makes security and DevOps tools, reported that "the situation is stabilizing, but we're still seeing numerous errors connecting to AWS APIs. According to AWS we can expect a full resolution shortly. App operations are still on lockdown for us-east-1 stacks now, but we'll unlock them as soon as we get confirmation that the incident has been resolved on the AWS side."

"We are closely monitoring the situation and fortunately this has not been a full outage for AWS but appears to be performance impacting for some customers of AWS," said James Lawson, chief solutions officer at Verge Solutions, which develops a platform for healthcare risk management.

"We do have contingency plans but in reality, this is no different than any other hosting provider having issues," he added. "It just happens to be that there are a number of other companies that are impacted because of the dominance of AWS in the competitive hosting environment."

Outage effects will vary on the site and services used by AWS. We'll update with more information as it becomes available.

Healthcare IT News Editor-in-Chief Tom Sullivan contributed to this story.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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