Buffalo hospital returns to pen and paper after a virus shuts down IT systems

Physicians are quick to lament the time-suck of EHRs, but most also acknowledge that they wouldn’t go back to paper records. This week, a Buffalo hospital was forced to put that theory to the test.

Erie County Medical Center in New York has been using paper records this week after a virus shut down IT systems early Sunday morning, according to The Buffalo News. Officials say the hospital is following its power outage emergency preparedness plans and the disruption has not impacted care delivery, with staff continuing to admit patients, fill prescriptions and perform scheduled surgeries.

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“We’re absolutely operational," Peter Cutler, the medical center’s vice president of communications and external affairs, told Health Data Management. "It creates some challenges, of course. People are working longer shifts. It has not had an impact on our ability to function.”

A hospital spokesperson would not say if the virus was part of a ransomware attack or if hackers have demanded payment. However, Jeffrey McConnell, a professor and chair of the computer science department at Canisius College, told the newspaper “it looks suspiciously like it's more than just your run-of-the-mill virus.”

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A recent survey shows ransomware is a top priority for healthcare security executives following a string of high-profile cases last year. Cybersecurity experts have urged providers to be more defensive against ransomware attacks and pushed for more collaboration and information sharing among providers. In a report published last month, the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology said healthcare should use artificial intelligence to guard against ransomware attacks.