Latest Cerner health records system outage began with Oracle database failure

Users across the VA, DOD and Coast Guard were unable to access records for two hours on Wednesday.
The exterior of the Veterans Affairs Hospital is seen November 10, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The latest service outage to hit the Cerner system behind the Department of Veterans Affairs electronic health records modernization program began with the failure of an Oracle database.

A VA spokesperson on Friday confirmed that an incident on Wednesday had started with a failure of one of three databases operated by the cloud giant, but said a full investigation into the root cause of the incident was ongoing.

Cerner’s platform went offline for a two-hour period, during which it affected users across the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard. The system was down between 4:09 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. CST, the VA spokesperson added.

It is the latest outage to hit the records system, which last month had to be taken offline for more than 20 hours following the discovery of a technical defect in a software update. During that incident, the health records system mixed up certain patient records, leading staff at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center and associated clinics in Washington and Idaho to revert to paper records.


Cerner’s Millennium health records platform provides the backbone of the systems used by the VA, the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard.

Commenting on the Wednesday outage, the VA spokesperson added: “All database, application and Citrix nodes were restarted, restoring service. There was no data loss or data corruption. Users logged back on and were able to use the system normally. A full incident report will be produced after normal major incident processes.”

In a statement to FedScoop, Pat Sargent, general manager of Cerner Government Services said: “Cerner remains steadfast in its support of our federal clients’ efforts to provide timely, high-quality care through a single, common electronic health record.”

“We continue to work hand-in-hand with our federal partners to address any and all concerns and are committed to getting this right for Service members, Veterans and their families. Any downtime, however brief, is unacceptable and we work each day to ensure we are delivering the best possible solutions,” Sargent added.

Last month the VA’s Office of Inspector General published a trio of reports that identified major concerns about care coordinationticketing and medication management associated with the EHR program launch.


Cloud giant Oracle is currently seeking antitrust approval to acquire Cerner for $28.3 billion, which if it is approved would be the company’s largest-ever deal.

Oracle did not respond to a request for comment.

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