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EHR Downtime Drives TN Hospital to Invest in Backup System

Blount Memorial Hospital is investing in a backup system after three days of EHR downtime.

One TN hospital is making a big investment to protect against EHR downtime.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Tennessee-based Blount Memorial Hospital is investing $30,000 in a backup system for its physicians group after a three-day episode of EHR downtime shut down its network in early May.

The system-wide outage affected nearly 90 physicians and their patients and forced Blount Memorial staff to cancel numerous appointments.

The Blount Memorial Hospital board of directors unanimously approved a capital expense request for the backup system at a June 26 board meeting. The Blount Memorial Physicians Group (BMPG) and the hospital’s information system’s director Andrew Skeenes issued the request for the $30,000 system.

According to The Daily Times, a June 15 memo from Skeenes stated the backup system was recommended “to enable BMPG to maintain continuity of operations and reduce patient appointment cancelations during system downtimes.”

The backup system is designed to pull nightly patient chart information based on future appointments and store the data on computers at BMPG facilities, according to the memo. Patient charts would be available for printing if a system-wide or site-specific episode of EHR downtime strikes a BMPG facility in the future.

“The implementation of a downtime system combined with the development of robust downtime operating procedures will greatly increase BMPG’s ability to effectively manage downtime events,” said Skeenes.

Blount Memorial cited a corrupted file as the cause of its May 2 episode of EHR downtime, which shut down the BMPG network for three days, according to hospital officials.

East Tennessee Medical Group (ETMG) and Springbrook Wellness Center were among the healthcare facilities affected by the incident.

In addition to the backup system, Blount Memorial board members also unanimously approved $510,065 in additional emergency capital expense requests.

Among these approved expenses were $9380 for two recumbent stepper exercise machines at the hospital’s outpatient rehab clinic, $45,000 for a computed tomography machine at ETMG, and $455,685 for “a variety of improvements that need to be completed throughout the hospital to meet current standards,” according board members.

The backup system is part of Blount Memorial’s approved fiscal 2018-19 budget, which went into effect July 1 and runs through June 30, 2019. Budget expenses total $285.9 million.

“I feel we have a good budget here for you,” Blount Memorial Hospital Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Smith told board members.

Update on Cass Regional Medical Center EHR Downtime

In a July 13 update, Cass Regional Medical Center officials announced most computer systems in its network are now operational following a ransomware attack on its health IT infrastructure.

However, medical center leadership is working in consultation with its EHR vendor — MEDITECH — to keep the EHR system offline until Cass Regional receives complete forensic results about the July 9 ransomware attack.

Medical center officials hired a third-party cyber forensic firm to complete an investigation into the security incident.

EHR access and internal communication between Cass Regional providers was impeded by the ransomware attack. Cass Regional officials said in an online statement that no patient information has been affected by the incident.

The period of sustained EHR downtime was initiated by MEDITECH as a precautionary measure.

Cass Regional will continue to be on ambulance diversion for trauma and stroke patients until its EHR system is again fully operational.

“The investigation is ongoing,” said Cass Regional CEO Chris Lang. “We now have an idea of how the attack occurred, but are waiting until the investigation is complete before releasing further details.”

By July 11, Cass Regional had made significant progress in recovering from the security incident.

“We are approximately 90% of the way through the recovery process,” said Chris Lang, CEO. “Most of our systems are back up and running,” said Lang in a July 11 statement.

Hospital leadership launched the organization’s incident response protocol within 30 minutes of the first signs of a security attack and will continue working to restore all systems.

“I am extremely proud of our staff for the manner in which they have rallied to make sure we can still take the very best care of our patients,” said Lang. “It has not been easy, but their dedication and can-do attitude is inspiring.”

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