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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Service Used By Brattleboro Memorial Hospital Was Victim Of Cyberattack

A program used by Brattleboro Memorial Hospital to allow doctors to dictate their notes by phone after they've seen a patient was the victim of a computer virus. It's one of three different methods that physicians at the hospital use to record this important information.

They can write these notes, which is time consuming, they can use a microphone that's utilizes a local transcription system, or they can use the phone to dictate their notes to a nationally based service known as Nuance Communications.

Steve Cummings is the Vice President for Information Services at the hospital. He says the computer virus that disabledthe main systems at Nuance had a rippling effect at thousands of hospitals across the country.

"We were not able to recover those notes for eight days which is certainly an issue as you're trying to move care along for your patients,” said Cummings.

Cummings says the hospital was able to switch all of its doctors over to the other two systems while the Nuance programs were out of service.

"It's really a week to week battle with the bad guys to stay current and try to protect yourself." — Hospital Vice President for Information Services Steve Cummings

Cummings is also concerned about breaches in the hospital's patient data base because he says there are dozens of unsuccessful attempts to hack into it every week.

"We're also constantly changing our platform and updating our files and firewalls and so on to continue to protect ourselves because it's really a week to week battle with the bad guys to stay current and try to protect yourself," said Cummings. 

Cummings says his office also provides hospital employees with information on how to be more aware of cyber threats.

"To make sure that they don't fall for the traps and click on a link that releases something and that's essentially what happened at Nuance,” said Cummings. "It was a user clicked on a link and it fired off a virus and off it went." 

Cummings says the Nuance system is back up and operating but he hopes to persuade all physicians at the hospital to switch over to one of the other systems.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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