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EHR Downtime: When Outage Strikes, Redundancy is the Answer


“I never thought I’d miss that train!” That’s what I told myself that morning on my way from New York to Long Island. I stood at the schedule display screen 20 minutes before the scheduled departure waiting for track information to appear. Ten minutes prior to the schedule, the screen became blank. I looked at other screens, they all have the same blank display (at least for that area in between tracks 17 to 21) so I called the customer service number and asked why it took a long time to refresh the display. The lady on the phone said, “Look to your left” and suggested I speak with someone at the office then I noticed the old-fashioned display board with up-to-date track information and heard the announcement that my 8:14am train already left and I would have to wait for another hour. That was a bummer now that I know that there’s an app for real-time track information. What’s more disappointing was that I didn’t think of what their downtime or plan B would be for that kind of situation.

Have you ever encountered the term “downtime” in your practice? Do you know what to do when you can’t log on to your computer to enter patient’s vital signs? What do you do when you can’t order a lab test because the system is down?

Because computers and healthcare records are becoming embedded in clinical workflow processes, any kind of disruption is critical to patient care. Everyone should be familiar with paper trail to use during an emergency to document what is required without electronic templates and clinical decision support offered by the electronic record system.  Laboratory tests may be faxed in or hand-delivered and when everything is back online, a staff member would need to enter the information from the paper charts.

Practicing those “plan B’s” in your clinical areas is just as important as fire drills. Be mindful of possible points of failure and how to recover from them, internally and externally.

These are examples of redundancy when downtime strikes as it applies to clinical settings:

  • A procedure to register new patients by assigning a unique temporary medical record numbers (MRN) and reconcile it with the real MRN’s when the system goes back online
  • Have hard-copies ready as needed: Medication Summary, Nursing Assessment Record, Universal Protocol checklist, etc.
  • Request medications to Pharmacy via the fax or pager system

Does your workplace have a downtime policy in place? Ask about it.

Contact a Houston Nurse Defense Attorney Today 

If you are facing disciplinary action due to properly documenting patient records during a downtime or have more questions on the BON process, contact The Law Firm of Yong J. An and speak to a Houston Nurse Defense Attorney directly at (832) 428-5679, call or text 24/7.