University of Iowa Health Care saw electronic health record failure overnight

'Patients continued to receive care'

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IOWA CITY — An electrical problem in one of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics’ main server rooms on Wednesday night brought down its electronic health record system — causing staff to scramble to resolve the problem while continuing to provide patient care.

Multiple UIHC systems went down about 8 p.m., and UIHC spokesman Tom Moore said information technology staff members were “immediately mobilized to begin fixing the problem.”

Off-site “support vendors” were brought to campus to help, Moore said. Clinical staff caring for patients were told to “revert to standard downtime procedures” that involved use of a read-only version of patient date, current of the time the system went down.

“Patients continued to receive care,” Moore said.

The downtime procedures allowed staff to minimize the impact, according to Moore, and services were restored by about 2:30 a.m. The restoration involved transferring critical services from the university’s data center to an off-site “redundant data center,” Moore said.

“There was no loss of data, and we expect any damaged equipment will be replaced under existing agreements with no additional expense to UI Hospitals and Clinics,” he said.

The university’s electronic health record is run through a system called Epic, a software manufacturer for mid-size and large medical groups, hospitals, and integrated health care organizations. More than 10,000 UIHC staff members use some component of Epic for their patient care responsibilities, according to the university’s Health Care Information Systems website.

Moore said, “These types of occurrences are rare.” But he didn’t say how often they’ve happened on the UI Health Care campus.

He said the university has had standard backup procedures for many years and they “continue to work well.”

“Consistent with our standard practices, we are reviewing our downtime responses and downtime procedures to identify opportunities for improvement,” he said.

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