The Department of Veterans Affairs had a significant outage within Cerner’s electronic health records system on Thursday, due to a corrupted patient database that could have caused major harm to VA patients due to the errors.
It is the latest problem to hit the VA’s troubled electronic health records modernization program, which has provoked ire from lawmakers and VA frontline medical staff.
The system went down for approximately three hours, resulting in downtime and delays to VA patients databases in the middle of the day, while the corrupted database was fixed and reprogramed.
“It meant that something is programmed incorrectly. It could mean bad data. In this case, it means they needed to rebuild the indexes (how the different files know where the patient data is in a different file),” said a source with visibility into the shutdown, speaking with FedScoop on the condition of anonymity.
“If this issue wasn’t found and corrected, one patients files could point to a different patients data. There is no way this should happen,” the source added.
VA and Cerner define a system outage as an “unscheduled system event where the entire EHR solution becomes unavailable to users and/or downtime procedures are implemented.”
The VA’s Office of Inspector General earlier this year published a trio of reports that identified major concerns about care coordination, ticketing and medication management associated with the EHR program launch.
The implementation of the VA’s new EHR system on an Oracle-Cerner developed platform to medical centers around the country has been delayed from its original estimates by at least one to two years due to long-identified issues with the program’s reliability and safety that could put veterans in danger.
The system rollout is far behind where it was expected to be at the moment, a top VA executive said during a Senate hearing in July.
The EHR system rollout issues have in some instances, including at the center in Spokane, Washington, caused major harm in which a veteran at risk for suicide did not receive treatment because records disappeared in the computer system.
VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes said: ““VA experienced a system outage of its electronic health Record system on August 4, 2022, which also affected VA, Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard sites using the Oracle-Cerner EHR. At 12:07 p.m. EDT, Oracle-Cerner received monitoring alerts indicating an issue with one of its databases. The system was taken offline to execute recovery of the database, during which time the sites switched to standard downtime procedures.
He added: “During downtime of the EHR, medical personnel could still care for patients, but documentation occurred on paper. The system was fully restored for all end-users at 4:23 p.m. EDT, for a total downtime of 4 hours and 16 minutes. No data corruption or data loss occurred.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include comment and additional information from the VA.