Hawaii State Prison EHR Outage Limits Provider Access to Health Records

The Department of Public Safety is looking for an interim solution for the faulty EHR that has obstructed provider access to patient health records for over six months.

The Hawaii state correctional system’s EHR has not worked properly since June, hampering provider access to health records for many inmates, according to reporting from Civil Beat.

Christin Johnson, the Hawaii Correctional Systems Oversight Commission coordinator, described the problem as “an absolute crisis.”

“Patient safety and health are at risk without a functioning EMR,” she told the commission during a meeting last week. “This is obviously a massive liability for the department.”

Importantly, providers do not have access to vaccination data, which has hampered efforts to deliver COVID-19 boosters inside state prisons and jails.  

Healthcare staff said the department cannot vaccinate inmates with the new bivalent vaccine booster shots unless it confirms the prisoners have already completed the first series of vaccines.

The department began a process in 2021 to purchase a new inmate database that includes a new EHR system, but that process is still in procurement. The request for proposals indicates a deadline of 2025 for installing the new system.

“Unfortunately, the current system failed before the procurement process could be completed,” Toni Schwartz, public information officer at the Department of Public Safety, said in an email to the news outlet.

She said that the department has been looking for an interim solution “and is awaiting vendor quotes” for a shorter-term fix.

“When the system started failing earlier this year, the department acknowledged the urgency of the matter by immediately contacting the vendor and working with them to find a viable solution,” Schwartz said.

The department recently purchased and has been testing new servers for the old system, but the vendor’s next available date to migrate data to the servers is next month.

In August, Tommy Johnson, the newly appointed director of the Department of Public Safety, acknowledged that officials did not do periodic software updates to the old system and that they would in the future.

After the system failed earlier this year, the state set up what was supposed to be a temporary, stand-alone system as a substitute, but staff has also had to resort to paper charts.

Switching between the systems makes it difficult to track patient records, which has resulted in “dozens” of errors, staff told the news outlet.

Martha Torney, a member of the commission, proposed at a meeting last week that the commission draft a letter to the new public safety director explaining that “this is unacceptable, and we want to be kept up to date and informed as to what is happening with the electronic medical records system. It cannot continue this way, and we want some results.”

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