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Ascension Seton regains access to electronic health records after ransomware attack

Ascension Seton Medical Center Williamson on April 6, 2022.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Ascension Seton hospitals in the Austin area once again have access to electronic health records after nearly a month of paper charting.

Ascension Seton hospitals in the Austin area once again have access to electronic health records after nearly a month of paper charting.

Austin is among the first markets to see its electronic health records (EHR) system restored following a ransomware attack that affected the Ascension health care system nationwide on May 8. So far, access has also been restored in Florida and Alabama. An Ascension representative said all hospitals across the country are expected to have access restored by June 14.

Ascension pharmacies are also back to normal operations, the company said.

“These developments mark a turning point in our response efforts to this ransomware attack,” Ascension President Eduardo Conrado said in an email. “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.”

Over the past four weeks, Ascension facilities have experienced a variety of disruptions caused by the ransomware attack. Without access to electronic health records, staff were forced to rely on manual and paper-based processes. Some phone capabilities have been offline, the company said, along with other systems used to “order certain tests, procedures and medications.”

While these tools have been inaccessible, staff at Ascension Seton Medical Center reported delays in patient care as orders for medication, labs and testing had to be handwritten and hand-delivered to other hospital departments. Though Ascension hospitals continued to treat patients, some emergency patients were diverted to other hospitals, and some appointments were postponed.

Restoring access to EHR systems is a significant milestone in Ascension’s recovery from the ransomware attack, but a spokesperson for Ascension said other affected systems were still being recovered. Additionally, the hospital system’s investigation into the cause of the ransomware attack is ongoing in cooperation with the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and third-party cybersecurity experts.

“This is a complex process, and it will still take time to complete,” the Ascension spokesperson said in a statement.

With access to electronic records restored, Ascension representatives said patients “should see improved efficiencies and wait times.”

Since the ransomware attack, patients have reported longer waits and delays in care. One woman, who spoke to KUT on the condition of anonymity, said tests connected to her husband's recent surgery for prostate cancer were in limbo.

She said her husband was expecting to hear whether the tests showed his cancer had spread at an appointment in mid-May.

“When we got there, his doctor was very, very frustrated,” she said. “He hadn’t gotten the results yet, and because of the breach, pathology had told him that it could be weeks, it could be months, and there’s a chance that he’ll never get the results.”

Ascension did not immediately respond to questions about whether patients affected in this way should expect tests to be recovered.

In the meantime, the patient’s wife said her husband had scheduled another appointment in case further treatment is needed.

Olivia Aldridge is KUT's health care reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @ojaldridge.
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