Oracle Cerner failure hits UK hospitals • The Register

Hospitals in the UK are recovering from an outage in their vital Oracle Cerner electronic health record system, which left doctors without access to critical patient information.

Yesterday afternoon, staff at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust were told not to use the electronic health record system due to a technical issue affecting Cerner.

An internal statement said the Royal Free Hospital, Chase Farm Hospital and Barnett Hospital – all part of the trust – would return to “downtime” procedures, including the use of paper. Although some users had intermittent access to the patient record system, they were advised to continue using the downtime process.

The registry has seen screenshots of alerts stating that the incident was unplanned and caused the application to run slowly and crash. Another error message stated that the problem was an “invalid database configuration” and that the “configuration file could not be found”.

The problem was fixed by 9 a.m. on October 12, according to another internal message. The Trust has been contacted for comment.

According to the Health Service Journal, a similar problem affected the Barts Health NHS Trust, which also uses the Cerner Millennium system. It was unable to access patient records or write discharge reports. A clinician said the outage was “overwhelmingly unsafe” for patients.

In an intriguing twist, a paper shortage is said to have exacerbated the failure of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. Users questioned what would happen if the trust were to be phased out during the downtime procedure, pointing out that the trust had run a campaign for users to go “paperless” using an appointment booking portal.

The outage follows a summer meltdown at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust when unprecedented temperatures caused server outages and an outage of hospitals’ patient records systems, leading to clinical disruption. The Trust is believed to use the Epic health record system, a rival to Cerner.

In the US, bugs after a new Oracle Cerner system went live jeopardized the safety of 150 patients at a Washington hospital, a Senate hearing revealed in July. Four days after Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane migrated to its new Cerner software, staff became aware of an “unknown queue” issue that could potentially harm patients.

At the hearing, Oracle executive vice president Mike Sicilia said Cerner and the hospital had made system changes to address the issues. He promised further improvements without letting “contract wrangling get in the way”.

Oracle acquired Cerner in June for $28.3 billion.

We’ve reached out to Oracle for comment, but it has yet to respond. ® Oracle Cerner failure hits UK hospitals • The Register

Rick Schindler

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