As investigators probe UVM hospitals’ cyberattack, IT races to repair network

Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 6:16 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Investigators continue to try to unravel who targeted the UVM Health Network’s IT system in a cyberattack Wednesday. While the MyChart patient portal remains down, private practices say the breach isn’t really causing them problems.

“As luck would have it, it really hasn’t affected our day-to-day flow,” said Dr. Thomas Bolduc with Timber Lane Pediatrics in South Burlington. They operate under the UVM Health Network, but the private practice has it’s own electronic health records system.

“All of our patient files for Timber Lane Pediatrics patients look and act the same way they did yesterday and last week,” he said. “What’s been affected is our ability to interface with the hospital.” In other words, Dr. Bolduc says he can’t dial into the UVM Health Network system to access lab results, but all Timber Lane Pediatric patient’s medications, allergies, and notes are still available.

If your health provider does use the UVM Health Network’s systems, though, they’ll face the same obstacles as the hospitals -- relying on paper copies of patient records, laboratory orders, and prescriptions. “This was a cyberattack on a network, so it was contained within a network and not sort of wider spread,” said Vt. AHS Secretary Mike Smith Friday. He stressed that while digital records enhance health care, it is possible to operate without that technology.

Governor Phil Scott says the state is aiding in the FBI investigation to determine if the breach is connected to the nationwide attacks at other health care facilities. He assured Vermonters the state’s IT network isn’t affected at all. And the governor says the attack has not interrupted COVID-19 testing

“We as a society have to weigh the efforts that technology brings with the risks that technology brings, and this exposes some of the risks. But at the same time, we can’t forget some of the things that it does. It speeds up our health care system, it makes better decisions within our health care system,” Smith said.

Network officials say it’s slow and steady progress. The IT team will be working around the clock throughout the weekend to identify the system’s issues. If you have an appointment at the hospital, officials are now encouraging you to call first to confirm it’s still on. The UVM Health Network has launched a website dedicated to providing updated information on the breach and how it’s impacting each of the six hospitals in Vermont and New York.

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