IT, EHR go dark at 13-hospital system

'Clinical, revenue cycle, e-mail, word programs and other applications'
By Erin McCann
04:58 AM

The computer system, including the electronic health record platform, at a 13-hospital health system went black this week, resulting in a 20-hourlong outage.

BJC HealthCare, in St. Louis, Missouri, reported a computer outage Tuesday afternoon that impacted its IT systems across 13 hospitals. 

All IT systems went dark, "including clinical, revenue cycle, e-mail, word programs and other applications," hospital spokesperson June McAllister Fowler told Healthcare IT News.

As for what caused it? The health system's IT department is still working with an external vendor to do a root cause analysis, she said. Applications were brought back online 20 hours later on July 29.

[See also: Data center outages come with whopping $8K per minute price tag.]

"There are no indications that either patient data or employee information was impacted by the technology issues," said McAllister Fowler. During the downtime, clinicians and health system employees resorted to manual paper-based patient management processes.

The financial implications of BJC HealthCare's computer system outage might not be pretty. In fact, a single minute's downtime for an organization can be hugely costly. Groups that experience data outages should expect to hand over $7,900 per minute of outage time, according to a 2013 report published by Ponemon Institute and Emerson Network Power.

Healthcare organizations on average can expect to pay $690,000 per outage incident, representing a whopping 41 percent increase since 2010. Of course, those numbers depend on myriad factors including complexity of IT systems and length of downtime, but it's still no small bill.

[See also: McKesson EHR goes dark after HVAC burnout.]

These costs include business disruption costs, which average to nearly $239,000; just shy of $184,000 in lost revenue costs; and end-user productivity shortfalls, pegged at $140,543, according to the data. The report also underscores UPS system failures, accidental/human errors, cybercrime, weather and water/heat or CRAC failure as accounting for the majority of outages.  

This is not the first reported outage this year. Back in March, the two-hospital Rideout Health in Northern California saw its McKesson electronic health record system go dark for about a week, due to a HVAC burnout. Health system officials cited HVAC units in an off-site data center following one of them burning out and the other overheating shortly after.

Boston Children's Hospital also reported back in March that its EHR had crashed and was down for about five days, citing a hardware issues related to data storage

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