Ascension Michigan pharmacies can fill drug scripts now, data crisis lingers | Bridge Michigan

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  • Ascension’s cyberattack was first detected on May 8, forcing the chain to rely on paper records, divert emergency care in some cases
  • Michigan patients can now get prescriptions again at Ascension pharmacies
  • Patients are expected to keep appointments, but also expect longer waits

Michigan’s Ascension hospitals can now fill prescriptions again — a bit of good news for the health-care behemoth hobbled for nearly a month by a ransomware attack.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis-based chain reported a “turning point” Tuesday “in our Florida, Alabama and Austin markets,” where hospitals were able to restore access to electronic health records, also known as EHRs.

What this means precisely for the Michigan market is unclear. Other markets should be back on line by next week, according to the Tuesday update, according to the update.

Ascension Michigan has repeatedly declined requests for Bridge interviews since the breach. Its major social media channels have stalled, and it has updated patients through a national page here and a page for Michigan patients here.

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In a statement Tuesday, Ascension called the success in the Florida, Alabama and Austin markets a “turning point in our response efforts.”

“With EHR access restored in several of our largest markets, with the rest expected to come over the course of the week, we are moving out of downtime procedures and closer to normal course operations across our ministry,” Eduardo Conrado, President of Ascension, said in a prepared statement.

Additionally, the chain can now operate its Ascension Rx pharmacies in Michigan, enabling doctors once again to transmit prescriptions electronically to the pharmacies for patient pick-up or delivery.

Meanwhile, Ascension continues, he said, to “provide quality care,” according to the statement.

The national system, which operates 15 Michigan hospitals, has been forced to acknowledge for nearly four weeks the crisis’ impact on patient care and its dependence at times on “manual and paper based systems.” 

In some cases, ambulances had to be diverted to other hospitals. Patients no longer could access their health portals, and were directed to “bring notes on symptoms and a list of current medications, including prescription numbers or bottles.” Pharmacies couldn’t access electronic records, then couldn’t accept credit cards, and finally shut down.

Still Tuesday, the hospital warned Michiganders that “patients may encounter longer than usual wait times and some delays.” Diagnostic imaging and testing also may be delayed.

The problems began May 8 when Ascension “detected unusual activity on select technology network systems.” It acknowledged the “cybersecurity event” the following day, then later referred to it as a “cybersecurity incident” and later still confirmed the incident was an act of “ransomware.”

Throughout, patients were expected to keep their appointments unless they were told otherwise.

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