Editor’s note: This is an ongoing story, and this article will be updated when more information is available.
10/20 UPDATE: Virginia Mason Franciscan MyChart appears to be back online, though an email confirming this was not immediately responded to.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE Oct. 17: Anyone needing to receive services from Franciscan Medical Clinic or St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw may experience some IT difficulties due to a ransomware attack, but hopefully not for much longer.
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, which runs the local clinic and hospital, said earlier this month that its parent company, CommonSpirit Health, is “managing an IT security incident which is impairing some of our facilities,” VMFH wrote in an email, and “certain” systems were taken offline.
“Our facilities are following existing protocols for system outages and taking steps to minimize the disruption. We take our responsibility to ensure the privacy of our patients and IT security very seriously. As a result of this incident, we have rescheduled some patient appointments,” the company continued. “Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is committed to ensuring patient safety and continues to prioritize patients with the most urgent medical conditions. Our hospitals remain open and we encourage anyone experiencing an emergency to seek medical attention immediately.”
In multiple messages, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health stressed that “regional medical centers” were not impacted by this issue, but it’s unclear if that includes the local medical clinic or hospital. The Courier-Herald has asked the company how Franciscan Medical Clinic or St. Elizabeth may have been affected, but did not receive an immediate response.
St. Elizabeth remains open at this time.
Even if the local clinics may not be affected, the Seattle Times reported MyChart, which patients use to manage their appointments, test results, and more, went down around the start of October, and it remains down today, Oct. 17.
Someone who works for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health told The Courier-Herald that MyChart could be back up as soon as tomorrow, Oct. 18.
The Courier-Herald has asked Virginia Mason Franciscan Health about that timeline; the company responded saying, “Some system functionality, including patient access to MyChart, is expected to be available in the coming days. Any other updates, such as what this may mean for efforts to reschedule patient appointments, will be forthcoming.”
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health also said that providers are able to access their patients’ electronic health records.
Though CommonSpirit did not originally identify what the “IT security incident” was, it confirmed it was a ransomeware attack on Oct. 13, though details about who is responsible have not been provided.
Ransomeware is malicious software designed to lock down a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
But even if the money is paid, that doesn’t mean CommonSpirit Health will be back to 100% — Comparitech reports that after a ransom is paid, an “average amount if data is recovered” 65% of the time, and all data is recovered about 8% of the time. Less than half the data is returned about 29% of the time.
This all means issues with appointments, medicines, tests, and procedures could persist into the future.