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1/26/2012
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Symantec Software Causes Outage At Military EHR System

Storage software upgrade caused Military Health System to shut down access to records for a day.

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A problem with Symantec storage software apparently caused a day-long outage of the Military Health System's electronic health records (EHR) system.

Although healthcare practitioners were able to access the clinical health depository (CDR) of the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application (AHLTA) for patient records during the shutdown, some features of it were unavailable, Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson Cynthia O. Smith confirmed in an email Thursday.

The Military Health System (MHS) shut down AHLTA CDR for most of the working day Tuesday, Jan. 17, to correct a problem during an upgrade to a new version of Symantec Veritas Storage Foundation software, she said.

The upgrade is one in a series of enhancements that will "enhance AHLTA data storage speed and capacity of the CDR," Smith said.

[ Symantec's remote-access software is vulnerable to attack. See Symantec: Users Should Disable PCAnywhere Now. ]

MHS provides healthcare for both active-duty and retired U.S. military personnel and their dependents. The AHLTA CDR holds the records for 9.7 million military personnel and their families, and supports millions of weekly healthcare prescriptions and other interactions with healthcare providers.

The root cause of the problem was a new version of the Symantec software being installed, Smith said. To remedy the situation, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which manages the AHLTA CDR, rolled back the Symantec application to its previous version to give the vendor time to address the issue.

Specifically, the MHS took AHLTA CDR offline at 8:26 a.m. EST and restored it to full service by 6 p.m. that day, Smith said.

During the shutdown, the system ran in local mode so healthcare professionals could continue to use it for patient care, she added. However, during this time "certain provider-specific features/functions were not available," Smith said.

AHLTA is one of the largest EHR systems in the country. The DOD is currently working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to integrate the system with the VA's VistA EHR system to better serve the healthcare needs of military personnel and veterans.

As healthcare providers of all shapes and sizes start implementing electronic medical records systems, security must be a top priority. Here's what you need to be thinking about to ensure your system is locked down. Download the report here (registration required).

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