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Sutter electronic records system went down in East SF Bay

Sacramento Business Journal, 8/27/13

Kathy Robertson, Senior Staff Writer- Sacramento Business Journal

The electronic health record system at seven East Bay hospitals, medical offices and clinics went dark on Monday in an unplanned outage. The information technology system had been down for a planned upgrade Friday.

At about 8 a.m. Monday, the electronic health record system at seven East Bay hospitals, medical offices and clinics went dark. The meltdown continued through late afternoon or early evening, according to early reports from the California Nurses Association.

The incident left doctors and nurses without access to patient information — including medications and patient histories — at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Mills Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Tracy, Sutter Modesto and affiliated doctor’s offices and clinics.

The information technology system was down for an eight-hour planned upgrade Friday night, according to the union. Nurses and others could read medication orders and patient histories, but new data was kept on paper records and later entered into the computer database.

The crash on Monday was unplanned.

“This incident is especially worrisome,” union legislative director Bonnie Castillo said in a news release. “It is a reminder of the false promise of information technology in medical care. No access to medication orders, patient allergies and other information puts patients at serious risk,” she added. “These systems should never be relied upon for protecting patients or assuring the delivery of the safest care.”

Sutter Health undertook a long-planned routine upgrade of its electronic medical record system over the weekend, said Sutter spokesman Bill Gleeson. “There’s a certain amount of scheduled down time associated with these upgrades and the process was successfully completed.”

On Monday morning, there was an issue with the software that manages user access to the electronic health records, Gleeson added. “This caused intermittent access challenges for some users in some locations. By Monday afternoon, most access issues were resolved. Our team applied a software patch last night to resolve the issue and restore access.”

Sutter caregivers and office staff have established comprehensive processes to follow when the electronic health record is offline, Gleeson added. “These procedures were followed.”

Union members have been complaining about the information technology system, developed by Madison, Wis.-based Epic, for some time.

Last month, nurses cited a variety of serious problems with the new system in more than 100 reports they filed at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

Hospital spokeswoman Carolyn Kemp said in an email to the Business Journal on July 17 that management was not aware of problems caused or exacerbated by the system, which went live in April. She attributed the complaints to a protracted labor dispute with the union.

“It’s also important to note that CNA nurses use the same platform at Kaiser and are not making allegations there,” Kemp said.

Kathy Robertson covers health care, law and lobbying, labor, workplace issues and immigration for the Sacramento Business Journal



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