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Oracle-Cerner EHR has experienced close to 500 'major' incidents to date

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | August 31, 2022
Health IT
The Oracle-Cerner EHR system used by the VA has experienced almost 500 'major' incidents since its rollout in 2020.
Almost 500 major incidents have plagued the new Oracle-Cerner EHR system used by VA medical centers, with at least 45 days of downtime occurring since its first installation in the fall of 2020.

A Freedom of Information Act request by FedScoop revealed that the system, named Millenium by the Department of Veterans Affairs, experienced 498 incidents between September 2020 and June 2022, leading to 930 hours of “incomplete functionality”, where it was partially not working; over 103 hours of degraded performance, and almost 40 hours of “outages".

It is the most comprehensive data set on system outages disclosed to the public, according to FedScoop.

“The goal of the new system is, and always has been, to provide better health outcomes for veterans and a better experience for providers. Right now, the system is not meeting those goals and needs major improvement,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough in a statement.

The data set holds the VA responsible for approximately one-third of incidents over the last two years, and Oracle-Cerner responsible for the other two-thirds.

The root cause of each issue is not clear to the VA in almost half of the incidents. Additionally, there is a lack of clarity over how it discloses multi-day outages, which take longer to analyze and figure out the root cause of. Descriptions of these specific incidents between VA officials in internal emails did not match up with the disclosed data, reported FedScoop.

All deployments of the EHR system have been halted until 2023 following several technical issues that caused delays and harmed patients.

One involved an unknown queue that Oracle Cerner failed to inform staff about at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. Orders that did not match a destination went to this queue, leading to 11,000 unfilled requests that caused harm to at least 149 patients. One homeless veteran even called the VA’s crisis line with the intent to kill himself after his psychiatry referral was lost. First responders saved his life.

A report in May found that the system has gone down more than 50 times since its pilot launch, including in April 2022 when a nationwide outage took down the EHR systems used by the VA, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense and the Coast Guard. For three hours, over 95,000 clinicians were unable to access or update their patient medical data.

"I call on the VA leadership to get serious about accountability and impose penalties commensurate with the failures, not the slaps on the wrist we have seen so far,” Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., told FedScoop after reviewing the VA EHR incident report obtained via FOIA.

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