WASHINGTON, Aug. 27 -- National Nurses United issued the following news release:
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, registered nurses reported yesterday.
For several months RNs have cited multiple problems with the new system, known as Epic, with safe care delivery that the California Nurses Association says is increasingly troublesome. In July, CNA cited over 100 reports submitted by RNs at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, documenting a variety of problems with Epic.
Sutter management has ignored the nurses concerns. These health information systems are not simply computerized versions of medical charts, but a complex system for maximizing revenue and profits and routinizing care that limits nurses' ability to meet individual patient needs. That is evidenced by managers at Sutter Delta in Antioch where RNs have been threatened with discipline for failure to enter all charges into the computers.
Then came this weekend. Friday night, Epic was down for a planned "upgrade" for up to eight hours during which nurses and other users could read medication orders and patient histories, but not enter new data which was kept on paper records then re-entered into the computers later.
Monday morning around 8 a.m. at various Sutter hospitals, Epic suffered a meltdown, going completely dark, requiring nurses and doctors to effectively work blind without any access to patient information, including what medications patients were on or needed, patient history information that informs treatment options, and all other information required for safe patient care delivery.
Facilities affected by the Epic collapse included Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Eden Medical Center facilities in Castro Valley, Mills Peninsula in Burlingame, Sutter Delta in Antioch, and Sutter Tracy and Sutter Modesto, as well as Sutter affiliated doctor's offices and clinics. Epic computers remained dark until late afternoon or early evening.
"This incident is especially worrisome. It is a reminder of the false promise of information technology in medical care. No access to medication orders, patient allergies and other information puts patients at serious risk," says CNA legislative director Bonnie Castillo, RN. "These systems should never be relied upon for protecting patients or assuring the delivery of the safest care."