A four-hour shutdown of Swedish Medical Center's centralized electronic medical-records system Monday morning was caused by a glitch in another company's software.

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A four-hour shutdown of Swedish Medical Center’s centralized electronic medical-records system Monday morning was caused by a glitch in another company’s software, said Swedish chief information officer Janice Newell.

The system, made by Epic Systems, a Wisconsin-based electronic medical-records vendor, turned itself off because it noticed an error in the add-on software, Newell said, and Swedish was forced to go to its highest level of backup operation. That allowed medical providers to see patient records but not to add or change information, such as medication orders.

The outage affected all of Swedish’s campuses, including First Hill, Cherry Hill, Ballard and its Issaquah emergency facility, as well as Swedish’s clinics and affiliated groups such as the Polyclinic.

During the outage, new information was put on paper records and transferred into patient records in the Epic system after the system went back up in the afternoon.

Epic, Newell said, is “really good at fail-safe activity,” and if it detects something awry that could corrupt data, it shuts itself off, which it did Monday at about 10 a.m.

Newell said the shutdown likely affected about 600 providers, 2,500 staffers and perhaps up to 2,000 patients, but no safety problems were reported. Staff members were notified of the shutdown via error messages, e-mails, intranet, a hospital overhead paging system and personal pagers.

Newell said she was “99.9 percent sure” other hospitals have had similar shutdowns, because software, hardware and even power systems are not perfect.

“Anybody who hasn’t had this happen has not been up on an electronic medical record very long,” Newell said. “I would bet a year’s pay on that.”

Some related systems, such as monitoring systems for intensive-care-unit patients at Swedish’s First Hill and Cherry Hill campuses, were not affected, said Swedish spokesman Ed Boyle.

Newell said this is not the first shutdown of Epic, which was fully installed in Swedish facilities in 2009 after a nearly two-year process. But it was the longest-running one, she acknowledged.

Swedish is exploring creating “more sophisticated levels of backup” with other hospitals, Newell said, locating a giant server in a different geographic area to protect against various disasters such as earthquakes or floods.

“There are a lot of us using Epic,” she said.

Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or costrom@seattletimes.com