UVMMC able to bring Epic system back online after cyberattack

Photos taken Friday at UVMMC by Ryan Mercer/University of Vermont Health Network

Vermont Business Magazine The University of Vermont Health Network was able to successfully restore access to the electronic medical record system at inpatient and ambulatory sites at UVM Medical Center over the weekend – an important milestone that will improve the efficiency of the care we provide and the experience of our patients.

They were also able to restore the system to ambulatory sites at Central Vermont Medical Center (Berlin) this morning and expect to bring Epic back online to ambulatory sites at Porter Medical Center (Middlebury) tomorrow and at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (Plattsburgh, NY) as quickly as possible this week.

UVMHN Executive Vice President of Operations Al Gobeille and UVMMC President and COO Stephen Leffler, MD, said during a press briefing Monday afternoon that bringing Epic back online means the staff will no longer need to manually log patient information, and medications, treatment, and clinical orders can be recorded electronically once again.

The full Epic application was only used at UVMMC. The focus of the cyberattack was at UVMMC, so most of the damage was done there. However, at this point, they do not know of any patient records that were compromised.

At the request of the FBI, who is investigating, Gobeille and Leffler declined to discuss the criminal side of the cyberattack, who might have been involved or if it was a ransomware attack.

The other hospitals used it only in their outpatient clinics, so the usual inpatient applications were not affected there.

Leffler said while they are constantly reassessing their priorities, one immediate, major focus is getting radiology fully back online. The blood bank is also among the priorities, they said.

Additional patient-facing applications will continue to be restored over time, including the patient portal, MyChart, which is still unavailable.

However, they expect the patient-facing health care experience should be fully online within a couple of weeks, even as full implementation may take several more weeks after that.

In most cases, they said, the patient experience itself, other than MyChart, scheduling and perhaps location of appointment, has not been affected.

The impact has mostly fallen on staff who have needed to work with paper records.

They said that the mood at the hospital was very upbeat once Epic returned.

They said this is a significant step forward and will improve operations, however, much work remains ahead and our teams continue to work around the clock towards full restoration as quickly and safely as possible.

Because some systems, such as in Finance were down, about 300 staff were required to either take compensatory time off or shift to other duties. There were about 130 positions available daily if staff chose to take on another task. They were not always able to fill these positions. Gobeille said there were no furloughs as part of this process.

On the technology side, about 5,000 computers were affected. A few hundred of the older ones had to be replaced because of the age of the OS. The email service also has been replaced to a more secure service. This all happened, of course, during a pandemic, which created some obstacles to the restoration process.

Several hospitals nationwide were hit by cyberattacks with ransomware demands just before Halloween. The attacks allegedly were from Eastern European or Russian groups. Microsoft and the US Cyber Command responded to the attacks in an effort to dismantle the criminal "botnet."

Anyone having difficulty reaching a provider can call a central line at 802-847-8888.

We will continue to provide systems and patient service updates when they are available. The latest updates and information can be found at www.uvmhealth.org/cyberattack.