Health Care

UVM Medical Center gets access to some medical records after cyberattack

University of Vermont Medical Center
The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The University of Vermont Medical Center has regained access to some medical records, a major step in restoring capacity after the Oct. 28 cyberattack. 

Around noon on Thursday, IT staff restored access to the “read only” medical records, meaning that nurses and doctors can view patients’ medical histories, prescriptions and past appointments through Oct. 28. 

UVM Medical Center President Steve Leffler called it an “unbelievably huge first step” in returning to normal. 

“It shows that the system is stable for physicians and staff,” he said. Doctors can see the records, but cannot enter new information into the system. They continue to document their appointments on paper. 

“There is still significant work to get into where we can actually enter orders and enter treatment plans and things like that,” Leffler said.

So far, IT staff members have cleaned and restored 1,000 of the network’s 4,500 computers, Leffler said. They also installed an additional firewall around the medical records system Epic and new antivirus software, making it safe for doctors to view records on those cleaned computers.

Leffler said he couldn’t estimate when operations will return to normal. “There’s still significant work to be done,” he said.

Deb Snell, president of the nurses union, said she expects it will be “a few more weeks.” Snell said she hopes the system will be running normally by the end of November, but the staff hasn’t been given a definitive timeline. 

Some programs have been restored — including the phone system, the radiology and cancer treatment systems, and some scheduling programs. Some hospital clinics, such as the sleep clinic and pain clinic, remain closed. 

The system that’s used to pay employees is also down, meaning that staff members weren’t paid for extra hours or night or evening shifts. One employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity to VTDigger, said her last paycheck was short more than $400. Leffler said he hopes to restore the back pay when workers get their next paycheck later this month.

The hospital continues to schedule fewer operations and appointments than normal. Some patients have described confusion and delays. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation started investigating in the days following the system breach, but has yet to disclose any information about what it has found. The hack was one of several cyberattacks launched on hospitals nationwide. At least some of those attacks have been linked to a Russian group. 

Leffler said patients with appointments at UVM Medical Center should expect doctors to have most of their health records, though they should bring health information, prescriptions or records from appointments that occurred after Oct. 28.  

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Katie Jickling

About Katie

Katie Jickling covers health care for VTDigger. She previously reported on Burlington city politics for Seven Days. She has freelanced and interned for half a dozen news organizations, including Vermont Public Radio, the Valley News, Northern Woodlands, Eating Well magazine and the Herald of Randolph. She is a graduate of Hamilton College and a native of Brookfield.

Email: [email protected]

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