VA, Cerner to Conduct Root Cause Analysis for EHR Software Bug

VA took the Cerner EHR system offline on March 3 at the EHRM pilot site in Spokane, Washington, after discovering a technical defect in a software update.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and EHR vendor Cerner will perform a “full root cause analysis” and establish an action plan to prevent further outages after a software bug affected the EHR system at the Mann-Grandstaff VA hospital, according to reporting from FedScoop.

A department official confirmed to the news outlet that the VA took the EHR system offline at about 1:30 PM on March 3 after discovering a technical defect in a software update.

The software bug resulted in a system mixup of certain patient records, leading staff at the VA hospital and associated clinics in Washington and Idaho to revert to paper records.

This outage is the latest problem in VA’s EHR modernization (EHRM) program, which has garnered criticism from lawmakers and frontline medical staff.

VA has worked to rectify errors caused to veterans’ health records because of the bug. As of March 17, the department said only five records remained to be corrected.

The Mann-Grandstaff VA hospital was the first rollout location for the department’s 10-year endeavor to transition from the Veterans Health Information System Technology Architecture (VistA) to a cloud-based Cerner EHR platform.

Details of the outage come after the VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published a trio of reports that identified significant patient safety concerns associated with the EHR program launch.

The first OIG report revealed deficiencies in the migration of veteran health data. OIG also found that the system that flags patients at high risk for suicide failed to activate.

In the second installment of its investigation, OIG highlighted problems with the EHR helpdesk ticketing system. In particular, the watchdog found that Cerner service desk support staff could not view and replicate reported problems. Additionally, OIG found that Cerner service desk support staff closed tickets before resolution and did not communicate ticket status to end-users.

In its third report, OIG found that the new EHR had discontinued future medication orders written by providers on occasion. The report also found that the system failed to process some outpatient medication orders and allowed registered nurses to order prescriptions without the necessary oversight from doctors. 

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