Texas VA EMR failure blamed on aging infrastructure

A system failure at the Veterans Affairs North Texas Healthcare System in March was symptomatic of outdated infrastructure and poor maintenance, according to a report from the VA's Office of Inspector General. But the auditor could not definitively conclude whether this was an isolated incident or part of a wider trend, Government Health IT reports.

The March 16 failure of two hard drives shut down the VistA clinical records system for 23 hours at two hospitals and eight outpatient clinics in the Dallas area. For six hours, clinicians had no access to any patient records until technicians could activate a read-only backup system, and users still had to document on paper until the full system came back online.

The OIG found that the hard drives had been nearing the end of their lifecycle, and that the entire Veterans Health Administration had 1,600 such drives in service nationwide. But the VA's Office of Information and Technology does not have any statistics about whether VistA outages have become more common as the drives have aged. The VA is setting up regional data centers to support its medical centers, but the North Texas system won't have such assistance for another two years. the report says.

For more about the VistA outage and related issues:
- have a look at this Government Health IT story
- peruse the OIG report (.pdf)