VA, DoD Clinicians Experience Additional Oracle Cerner EHR Outage

Denis McDonough, VA secretary, told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the Oracle Cerner EHR outage lasted for 224 minutes.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) experienced a systemwide outage of its Oracle Cerner EHR earlier this week, according to reporting from Federal News Network.

The outage impacted the five VA sites currently using the new platform, as well as providers across the Department of Defense (DoD) and Coast Guard.

In a memo to staff obtained by the news outlet, VA said clinicians trying to use the EHR system were "experiencing failures and cannot serve veterans in day-to-day operations."

"Performance degradation is impacting end-users," the memo stated. "End users are experiencing slowness, freezing errors."

Gary Kunich, a VA spokesperson, said in a statement that the outage began on Tuesday "when one of the databases in the federal EHR became unresponsive due to a failed background process."

He noted that the incident's cause, or causes, "remain under investigation."

Denis McDonough, VA secretary, told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that the EHR outage lasted for 224 minutes.

The EHR also experienced a five-hour service disruption across VA, DoD, and Coast Guard on April 17 linked to a database upgrade.

Last week, VA announced that it would not schedule additional implementations of the EHR until it is confident that the system is highly functioning at the five sites currently using it.

VA has sustained two prolonged pauses in EHR go-lives. However, McDonough said that VA is taking a different approach this time.

"The main difference is that we've said very clearly that we're not doing to try to do both of these things at the same time—namely, continue to prepare for further deployment and make it right in Spokane, Walla Walla, White City, Roseburg, and Columbus," McDonough said. "The bottom line is we are going to invest in those five sites to make sure that we get it right."

Patty Murray (D-Wash.), subcommittee chairwoman, said she remains worried about "very serious patient and safety concerns" but supports continued implementations once sites using the EHR show progress.

"I do support efforts to move forward, only after you are confident about the safety and the effectiveness of the system," Murray said.

On the other hand, Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) has called for the termination of the EHR system.

"The Oracle Cerner electronic health record system has been a complete failure. It has caused serious harm to patients, devastated morale amongst employees and providers, and created a crisis of confidence for veterans," McMorris Rodgers said in a statement.

"I have long supported the goal of modernizing our health record system to better care for our nation's heroes," she added. "Unfortunately, despite billions of dollars and every possible opportunity for improvement, it's become abundantly clear that there is no coming back from the mess the Department of Veterans Affairs has made with this deeply broken system."

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