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Sutter Health, Nurses' Association At Odds Over Epic EHR Downtime Question

August 28, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal and Mark Hagland
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Sutter Health executives and CNA leaders disagreed publicly over the facts of a temporary Epic EHR downtime

On Aug. 28, the California Nurses Association (CNA) and executives at the Sacramento-based Sutter Health system disagreed publicly over a downtime issue that emerged on Aug. 26, with the outspoken nurses' group and the health system disagreeing over both the facts of the situation and their interpretation.

According to a press release issued on Aug. 28 by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, "A controversial electronic health records system on which Sutter corporation has said it is spending $1 billion went completely dark Monday at Sutter hospitals in Northern California, exposing patients to additional risk beyond problems reported with the system in July." The press release went on to assert that members of the outspoken nurses' group had repeatedly informed health system executives of problems with the electronic health record (EHR) system, from the Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems Corporation.

But Sutter executives immediately challenged the facts of CNA's assertions. As Sutter Health spokesperson Bill Gleeson said in a statement, also on Aug. 28, "Sutter Health undertook a long-planned routine upgrade of its electronic health record over the weekend. There's a certain amount of scheduled downtime associated with these upgrades, and the process was successfully completed. On Monday morning," the Sutter statement went on to say, "we experienced an issue with the software that manages user access to the EHR. This caused intermittent access challenges in some locations. Our team applied a software patch Monday evening to resolve the issue and restore access."

In addition, challenging the CNA contention that temporary downtime resulted in a situation "requiring nurses and doctors to work without any access to patient information," Gleeson said in the Sutter statement that, "Prior to Monday's temporary access issue, or uptime percentage was an impressive 99.4 percent, with these systems that operate 24/7."

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