Johnson Memorial Health relying on ‘old school’ methods following cyberattack

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JOHNSON COUNTY – Doctors and nurses at Johnson Memorial Health are having to rely on pen and paper for much of their work following a cyberattack that forced the hospital system to shut down its computer network.

JMH President and CEO, Dr. David Dunkle says hackers got into the hospital system’s network at 10:31 p.m. Friday.  Within a couple minutes, the cyber criminals began infecting the system with ransomeware.  At 10:40 p.m. Dunkle says JMH’s IT Department detected the hack and shut down the computer network a few minutes later.

“So any computer throughout the organization that is connected to our network, so anything that people have to use their credentials for to log onto in the system, is currently shut down,” Dunkle said.

It’s still not known if the hackers got ahold of any sensitive medical or personal information. The FBI is leading the investigation into the attack.

“We don’t know what has been compromised we are still doing those diagnostics and trying to determine the extent of the threat,” he said.

In the meantime, doctors and nurses are working to continue patient care without using computers connected to the internet or each other.  On Monday, staff members could be seen writing patient charts and notes on paper. Signs on computers screens said “Do not use computer until further notice.”

Patients and visitors coming to the hospital Monday said it was a different experience, but they didn’t have any major delays.

“I walked in, went to the registration and the lady informed me that their computers were down and that they would have to do all the paperwork by hand,” said patient Judy Poling. “It was kind of like stone age.”

“No problems,” said visitor Penny Mullins. “I mean they had to do all that by hand, but they were pretty quick at it so it was great.”

Dunkle said the hospital was maintaining a full surgery schedule and only a few appointments had been postponed as of Monday. However, the return to paper records was slowing things down.

“We’re used to sending lab orders via computer, sending prescriptions to pharmacies via computer, so we’re going back to a real reliance on paper again,” Dunkle said. “We’re using more human runners, people taking lab recs between the ER and the lab.”

As of Monday Johnson Memorial’s Emergency Department was diverting patients to other facilities.

“We can’t run as efficiently as we normally do, but we can run,” Dunkle said. “And I think that’s what’s important.”

For now, the plan is to keep the ER on diversion and continue maintaining appointments as well as possible until computers can be rebooted. Dunkle said that could be weeks from now.

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