12 big EHR, patient record issues in 2019 so far

During the first half of the year, issues with EHR implementation, downtime and improperly disposed paper patient records have had negative consequences for healthcare providers.

Here are 12 instances of EHR and patient record issues to note.

Covenant Health, a Tewksbury, Mass.-based health system, cited its $83 million Epic EHR implementation last year for a $60.9 million operating loss in 2018. The hospital reported a 30 percent decrease in productivity after the implementation, as well as physician turnover, which contributed to its financial issues.

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services reported delays in its Cerner EHR implementation while the state negotiates its $32 million contract. The organization also cited challenges installing the EHR system in older facilities in the delay.

Aberdeen, Wash.-based Grays Harbor Community Hospital physicians had to use paper documentation in June as part of the hospital's "downtime protocol" due to communication issues between its EMR and other systems and networks within the hospital.

A routine Cerner update at Phoenix-based Abrazo Community Health Network caused a three-day EHR downtime period at the hospital. The health system was operational during the downtime while the issue was resolved, and clinicians completed paper charts during the outage.

Twenty-six Universal Health Services hospitals reported limited access to their Cerner-based EHR systems in June after technical issues with a vendor's data center. The issues lasted for around two hours before normal access and operations were restored. During that time, the Cerner "read only" copy of the EHR was still available at all 26 locations.

Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network experienced IT system disruption in May that interfered with its Epic EHR system. The 90-minute disruption affected all seven of the health system's hospitals and caused delays in scheduled medical procedures as well as lack of access to the EHR. The hospitals also experienced patient portal downtime, but all systems were restored within the same day.

Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown, Ky., reverted to manual operations in April after it experienced an IT systems disturbance that led to EHR downtime. The hospital brought in extra staff to conduct manual processes while the EHR was down. The hospital was able to secure and restore its systems without disrupting care.

Partners HealthCare in Boston experienced technical issues, including EHR downtime, for several hours in February. The health system reported via Twitter that it was experiencing technical issues with some of its IT systems, including the EHR network it launched with Epic in 2012. Some nonurgent procedures were delayed or rescheduled, but emergency procedures were not affected.

Improperly disposed paper records
Thousands of patient records from an optometrist's office were found in the dumpster behind a strip mall in Tomball, Texas. The records were from 1997 to 2013 and exposed information such as bank and insurance statements and social security numbers.

Boxes of patient medical records dating back to 2004 were found in a Southfield, Mich.-based dumpster near a building that houses several medical records. The dumpster also contained metal containers with blood pathogens.

Hundreds of patient records from Atlanta-based Southside Medical Center were found burning in a dumpster and stacked outside in shipping creates. Some of the records were 50 years old.

The FBI investigated the former owner of a Chicago-based medical facility that closed last year after patient records were found in the building in June. The records were reportedly left in an alley for around a year. 

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