Corrupted Patient Database Triggers VA Oracle Cerner EHR System Outage

The VA Oracle Cerner EHR system outage affected users across the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Defense (DoD), and the Coast Guard.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) most recent Oracle Cerner EHR outage was initiated by a corrupted patient database, according to reporting from FedScoop.

On Thursday, the EHR system went down for more than four hours, impacting users across the VA, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Coast Guard, VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes told the news outlet.

The outage starting at 12:07 p.m. resulted in downtime and delays to VA patient databases while the corrupted database was fixed and reprogramed.

“Oracle-Cerner received monitoring alerts indicating an issue with one of its databases,” Hayes explained. “The system was taken offline to execute recovery of the database, during which time the sites switched to standard downtime procedures.”

“During downtime of the EHR, medical personnel could still care for patients, but documentation occurred on paper,” Hayes added. “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.”

The corrupted patient database could have led to potential patient harm due to the errors. 

“It meant that something is programmed incorrectly. It could mean bad data,” a source with visibility into the shutdown said to FedScoop.” 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).”

“If this issue wasn’t found and corrected, one patient’s files could point to a different patient’ data,” the anonymous source added. “There is no way this should happen,” the source added.

The system outage is the latest issue to impact the VA EHR modernization (EHRM) program. Earlier this month, VA Roseburg Medical Center was affected by an unplanned Oracle Cerner EHR outage.

“During this time, clinical staff could not check-in, discharge, or transfer patients,” a VA spokesperson said to FedScoop. “While staff may not have been able to register patients or transfer them to another unit within the EHR, patients were seen and treated. When the issue was resolved, patients were registered and transferred within the system to the appropriate patient unit.”

The troubled EHR has several amounting issues that have caused some lawmakers to question if the program should still continue.

“Instead of fixing the issues with the system, VA and Cerner seem much more interested in hiding them,” Representative Mike Bost, R-IL said in light of an OIG report which revealed the Oracle Cerner EHR caused 149 cases of harm to patients.

“We expect honesty, at the very least, and a plan to resolve the training and referral issues, so they never happen again,” continued Bost.

Congressman Mike Bost said if the VA does not work to fix its existing issues, the VA needs to pull the plug on the program.

Other lawmakers have also spoken out in frustration against the VA EHRM program.

“VA needs a modernized EHR,” VA Committee Chairman Mark Takano said in a public statement. “Continuing with VistA is not sustainable long term. Despite this, and I want to be absolutely clear, I will not sit idly by and allow this program to endanger veterans.

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