Medical hurting due to electronic records issues

Doctors and patients are calling it a week to forget after an electronic records outage forced St. Michael Medical Center into the “dark ages.”

It was a nightmare for the Silverdale hospital that, along with over 140 medical facilities in 21 states, started experiencing problems Oct. 3. The hospital is a provider of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, which announced its parent company, CommonSpirit Health System, was responding to an IT-related security issue.

The issue forced the outage of several key systems used on computers by the hospital, including viewing x-rays, MRI’s, doctors orders and obtaining access to medical history of patients. It has also resulted in an outage of MyChart, which is used by patients who want to access their records and contact members of a healthcare team. The outages led to the cancellation of appointments for both minor and major medical procedures.

CHI has not announced whether the outage is the result of a ransomware attack or if medical records were compromised.

“You thought it was bad before, this is a whole other level,” said Kelsay Irby, a nurse at St. Michael. “I’ve never seen anything like it. None of us have.”

While both St. Michael and VMFH have declined comment, Irby is one of several medical professionals who have spoken out. “People are calling in sick, quitting, travelers are canceling their contracts,” she said. “And to top it off, our payroll system went down.”

The problem has also affected St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, another CHI medical provider. Danielle Wilcock, who works there, said, “Things are moving much slower due to everything being on paper and that we are triple-checking everything we do for your safety.”

Wilcock recommended bringing written or printed medical records if they are accessible or bringing physical pill bottles to hospitals for refilling prescriptions.

As of Oct. 7, the systems were still down. Irby and others suggested anyone needing urgent care visit a hospital out of the CHI network for the time being. “We are doing the best we can. There’s no end in sight for this,” Irby said.