Saturday, January 25, 2014

Martin Health System, Florida: Our EHRs were out for two days, but patient care has not been compromised, sayeth Pinocchio

This is yet another post in my ever-growing "our EHRs went out due to IT incompetence, and chaos ensued, but patient care has not been compromised" series (see query link:

Martin Health System looking into network outage that slowed hospital operations
Posted: 01/24/2014
By: Meghan McRoberts

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla.-- Martin Health System is looking into what caused some computer hardware to fail Wednesday, leading to network outage in all of the Martin Health System hospitals.

Things were back to normal Friday morning, according to hospital spokesperson, Scott Samples.

Translation: for two days there was a complete network outage, with no EHRs, email, CPOE etc.

But since Wednesday night patients say the atmosphere around the hospital was chaotic.

Patients likely noted doctors and nurses running like headless chickens.  I note that chaos and safe medical care are not good bedfellows.

Hospital staff, doctors and nurses access the computer system to read patient charts and medical information. Without it, they were left digging into paper documents.

The paper documents left laying around would have best had scanty, sparse patient information, since the computer in computerized hospitals has become the primary source of truth.  (One might think such a system, including the network, would be hardened against failure, but a two-day outage, as per other outages at the query link above, show this is often not the case.)

Samples says this led to some minor inconveniences around the hospitals, where some patients received their meals later than normal. Some outpatient appointments could not be scheduled, and extra nurses and administrative staff were brought in to help with the increased work load.

No medication or treatment was jeopardized.

There we have it.  In Pinocchio-like fashion we hear the obligatory "we lost all our information systems, which are our central nervous system for patient care, but patient care has not been compromised" statement from hospital PR.  This statement is questionable on its face. 

The risk of accident was significantly increased on its face.

New patients information was taken down on paper, and put into the system on Friday. Samples says there was a back up computer for data from former patients.

The future will be in question depending on the quality, or lack thereof, of this "backload" of patient information that was collected during what patients themselves described as "chaos."

Of course, according to the IT pundits paper itself, even under ideal circumstances, is so risky that tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per hospital has been spent to replace it.  Someone is not being truthful.

The hospitals that experienced the outage were Martin Medical Center, Martin Hospital South, and Tradition Medical Center.

But patient safety risk was not compromised at any of them, so sayeth the figure below.

All our EHRs and other clinical IT were unavailable for two days ... patients reported chaos ... we had to delay or cancel appointments and bring in extra clinical staff to maintain order ... but patient safety was not compromised, except for some late lunches!

Pinocchio must be working at a lot of hospitals. When EHRs are out, patient safety is compromised. This is not open for debate, it is an "on its face" issue. These systems need hardening so as to be up and available 100%. Period. People responsible for outages need to be held accountable, including in a court of law if patients are injured or die as a result. Period.

Finally I note that, with the corporatization of healthcare and with population of executive offices by lightweights with unquestioning faith in "cybernetic miracles", the credo of my early 1970's medical mentor, cardiothoracic surgery pioneer and educator Victor P. Satinsky, MD (link) - "Critical thinking, always, or your patient's dead" - is more valuable than ever.

-- SS


Anonymous said...

Does any one actually believe that there were not any adverse events?

The delays and missed treatments, delays in testing and diagnosis, and wrong medications being given due to the chaos and that patients can not be found when all information disappears in one fell swoop on January 22, 2014 at Martin, may not result in death for several days.

Anonymous said...

Let's hear unfettered comments from the doctors and the nurses who endured the mayhem.

Anonymous said...

but patient care has not been compromised" statement from hospital PR. This statement is questionable on its face.

Same PR firm that covered the George Washington Bridge "traffic study"???


Steve Lucas said...

I bet the fax machines were running at full speed, but to hear doctors complain they are so yesterday. Old and trusty beats new and broken every time.

Steve Lucas