Sutter EHR system crash leaves several hospitals scrambling

Sutter Health's nearly $1 billion electronic health record system crashed Monday, leaving staff at its California hospitals and doctor's offices without access to patient records for a full day, as reported first by the California Nurses Association.

The union previously reported more than 100 complaints to Sutter management about problems with the Epic system, including software errors, computer-generated delays and an inability to properly monitor patients.

During a planned eight-hour upgrade last Friday night, staff could read medication orders and patient histories, but could not enter new information. That had to be recorded on paper to be entered into the system later.

On Monday, however, the whole system crashed at about 8 a.m. and staff had no access to patient information at all.

"No access to medication orders, patient allergies and other information puts patients at serious risk. These systems should never be relied upon for protecting patients or assuring the delivery of the safest care," Bonnie Castilla, CNA's legislative director, said in an announcement.

Some nurses complained of inadequate support during the blackout and inadequate disaster planning.

The outage affected several hospitals, including Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Eden Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Hospital, Sutter Delta, Sutter Tracy, Sutter Modesto and numerous affiliated clinics. The IT staff applied a software patch Monday night to restore access.

Sutter Health spokesperson Bill Gleeson told Healthcare IT News that CNA opposes the technology and had misrepresented the situation. "It comes as no surprise, given the fact that we are in a protracted labor dispute with CNA," he said.

Sutter previously has criticized nurses for failing to enter all the billing charges into the new system.

Hospitals in Belleville, Ill., and South Bend, Ind., recently reported hours-long outages of their EHR systems, with Memorial Hospital of South Bend forced to divert patients to other emergency departments.

Meanwhile, nurses at 266-bed Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Ohio, in June asked hospital officials to push back the launch of its EHR system, fearing inadequate training would put patients at risk.

To learn more:
- read the CNA announcement
- here's the Healthcare IT News story