Patient and Community Information Regarding Attack on DCH Computer
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. What happened to the DCH computer network?
On October 1, DCH Health Systems experienced a cyberattack by an unknown individual who used malicious software to encrypt files and restrict access to computer systems serving DCH Regional Medical Center, Northport Medical Center and Fayette Medical Center. Investigators have determined that the ransomware variant Ryuk was used to encrypt the files.
2. How has DCH responded?
Upon discovery of the cyberattack early on October 1st, we immediately implemented emergency procedures to continue providing safe and patient-centered care. We also initiated a comprehensive response that included coordination with law enforcement and engaging independent IT security and forensics experts who are working around the clock with our IT teams to help us understand and resolve this incident. While IT systems are down, medical staff have shifted operations into manual mode and are using paper copies in place of digital records to provide safe care to our patients in a difficult situation.
3. What is the impact on DCH operations and healthcare services?
Although the attack has impacted DCH’s ability to accept new patients, we are still able to provide critical medical services to those who need it. Patients who have non-emergency medical needs are encouraged to seek assistance from other providers while DCH works to restore our systems. Our staff of local doctors and nurses are responding to the community’s urgent needs and the needs of current patients in our hospitals. Rest assured, we are maintaining our high standards of care, and, at this time, no patients are being transferred. Some outpatient procedures are still being conducted at the DCH hospitals. If a patient has a scheduled procedure or test at a DCH hospital, they should call the hospital or their healthcare provider prior to confirm the appointment.
4. What should I do if I or a family member has a medical emergency?
DCH hospitals are still able to provide emergency medical services
• If you feel your condition is critical, call 911 or come to a DCH emergency room.
• If your condition is not life threatening, go to the closest hospital emergency room
not affiliated with DCH.
• If you need urgent care, there are many urgent care centers available in West Alabama.
• If you are a University of Alabama student, the UA Student Health Center and Pharmacy is available to you.
5. If I have an appointment scheduled with my family doctor, what should I do?
Currently, our offices do not have access to patient lists and cannot call to reschedule appointments. If you are scheduled for an outpatient procedure or test at DCH, we do ask that you call before you come.
6. What contingency plans/procedures are currently in place to ensure safe operations and quality patient care?
DCH implemented our “emergency downtime procedures” to ensure safe and efficient operations while some systems are not available. Each DCH department has written policies on what to do and how to operate during downtime. These protocols are reviewed, practiced and updated on a regular basis. This includes temporarily switching to paper copies in place of digital records. Although paper charting is more time consuming, our staff of local doctors and nurses are well-trained and comfortable with paper charting. Following downtime protocols ensure we can maintain our standards of high-quality, patient-centered care during difficult times.
7. When will DCH recover its systems and resume normal operations?
Our IT teams are currently working with IT experts to investigate all options for swiftly and securely restoring our IT systems. Throughout this process, we are prioritizing patient care and safety. Restoring systems following attacks such as this one can require a time-intensive process to complete and confirm system security before resuming operations. We do not have a specific timetable but will continue to provide updates as the situation evolves.
8. Have any records been lost or stolen from the DCH system?
It is still early in our investigation; however, from everything our security experts have told us, the attackers are usually not interested in obtaining data. At this point, we have no indication that any patient or employee data has been misused or removed from our system. We are committed to completing a full forensic investigation and taking all appropriate action in response to our findings.
9. Who is behind this attack and what do they want?
We are coordinating with law enforcement throughout our response and do not anticipate sharing specifics about the investigations underway or the perpetrator’s demands. At this time, we have not been informed that anyone has been identified or charged in association with this incident.
10. What measures are being taken to prevent anything like this from happening again?
DCH has engaged independent cybersecurity experts to help us understand and respond to the incident. We are reviewing our security protocols and plan to implement advanced security measures to further harden our layers of security.
11. Will there be any delay in sending out bills?