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Brooklyn hospital resorts to pen-and-paper charts following cyberattack

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | December 19, 2022
Cyber Security Health IT
One Brooklyn Health is using pen-and-paper charts to continue operations after a cyberattack led to a shutdown of its critical EMR services. (Photo of Brookdale exterior, courtesy of One Brooklyn Health)
An attack on its IT systems left some critical services at a Brooklyn hospital offline last week, forcing it to outsource its diagnostic imaging and resort to pen-and-paper charts for recording patient information.

One Brooklyn Health, in central Brooklyn, includes Interfaith Medical Center, Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center. It serves many of New York's poorest patients, primarily those on Medicaid and Medicare, costing it millions each year from low reimbursement rates. Brookdale is located in Brownsville, where the poverty rate is twice the citywide rate, according to The New York Times.

In late November, the healthcare system was hit with a cyberattack that shut down all-important workstations for accessing medical records, ordering prescriptions and filling in patient charts. The hackers are reportedly seeking $5 million in ransom, according to local news outlet, the Brooklyn Paper.

As a result, hospital employees have experienced longer waiting times for lab results, as well as diagnostic imaging, which cannot be done in-house.

“A lot of things are taking a long time, we are doing our best and trying to adapt,” a staff member at Brookdale told The New York Times on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the hack.

Cybersecurity experts are trying to get all three hospitals fully back online. While all patient information was backed up, another anonymous employee at Interfaith said that his unit in inpatient psychiatry now requires hard-copy patient records to be carried by hand.

Scheena Iyanda Tannis, a critical care nurse at Brookdale for the past 17 years, says using paper charts has not affected the ability to provide quality care. “The actual care of the patient remains the same, because patients present, disease processes present, as they always have.”

Administrators say many services have been restored after the hospital’s network was taken offline to contain the attack, but elected officials and medical professionals gathered outside of Brookdale Hospital Medical Center on December 15, demanding action to stop attacks like this from reoccurring.

“Why wasn’t there a backup plan in place from the very beginning of this cyberattack?” said Reverend Kevin McCall, founder of the Brownsville civil rights advocacy group Crisis Action Center, reported the Brooklyn Paper.

LaRay Brown, the chief executive officer of One Brooklyn Health, told The Times that “all of our hospitals and facilities are open, and we continue to provide care for our patients using well-established downtime procedures for which our clinicians and administrators are extensively trained.”

The FBI declined a request for comment, and other public safety agencies did not respond.

The New York State Department of Health said it was working with the hospitals to ensure patient safety.

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