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VA Halts Access To EHR System

The administration is addressing a bug that caused its VistAWeb e-health records system to return incomplete data.
The Department of Veterans Affairs shut down its electronic health record system last week to fix a problem affecting access to patient data.

A source familiar with the situation said Tuesday that the administration is working out a bug in the system and wants to be sure it's fixed before putting it back online.

At this time, the VA does not know when that will be, the source said.

According to a patient safety alert sent out by the VA Central Office March 3, a clinician discovered incorrect prescription information for a patient in VA computerized patient record system, and alerted the Department to problems in the system.

The system listed a drug called vardenafil as one of a female patient's prescriptions. However, vardenafil is commonly used to treat male erectile dysfunction, which alerted the clinician that the data was likely not accurate.

Subsequent attempts to retrieve the correct patient data failed, according to the patient safety alert.

That inaccuracy was discovered in November, and the VA was able to fix the bug quickly. However, upon further investigation VA engineers discovered another software flaw in the system that results in it giving back incomplete rather than erroneous data returns, the source familiar with the situation said.

This flaw -- which the VA believes may be a systemic issue -- is proving more difficult to repair and is what prompted the VA to shut down all access to electronic Defense Department records through the CPRS Remote Data View and VistAWeb systems on March 1.

Starting March 13 all VA facilities should use phone, fax, paper, or other alternative methodologies to request medical information, according to the patient alert.

The VA's VistAWeb is the largest EHR currently deployed. More than 4 million members access the system, which has been used as a blueprint for similar e-health record systems.