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Medicine Security IT

Computer Virus Forces Hospital To Divert Ambulances 213

McGruber writes "The Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper is reporting that a hospital with campuses in Lawrenceville and Duluth, Georgia turned ambulances away after the discovery of 'a system-wide computer virus that slowed patient registration and other operations.' They're only currently accepting patients with 'dire emergencies.' A spokeswoman for the hospital said the diversion happened because 'it's a trauma center and needs to be able to respond rapidly.' The situation began on Thursday afternoon and is expected to last through the weekend."
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Computer Virus Forces Hospital To Divert Ambulances

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  • by kryptKnight ( 698857 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:10PM (#38330018)

    The hospital is still treating patients in emergency situations but is asking people with minor ailments, such as sore throats or sprained ankles, to contact their regular providers, Okun said.

    We're in a sad state when people need to go to the hospital to deal with sore throats and sprained ankles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:12PM (#38330028)

    And when hospital computers run Microsoft operating systems!

  • by The Pirou ( 1551493 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:18PM (#38330088)
    Catch a sore throat on the weekend as someone with an issue with their immune system when your regular care provider is unavailable, I think I'd go to the hospital too. Likewise if I was aged and fell, causing a swelling of the ankle. The injury could potentially be life threatening.

    Just because we're young and durable doesn't mean that there aren't a good number of others who have genuine health concerns that seem trivial to us.
  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:29PM (#38330218) Homepage Journal

    Yes, but until the health care reform package runs most of the for profit insurance companies out of business

    Whatever profits are to be purportedly "lost" during the healthcare reform will be made up by others' mandatory enrollment. It's all feelgood bullshit to keep the same ridiculously bloated healthcare complex fat. There are no real compromises here, and as usual, the common man loses.

    It's funny how all the big-business parrots are decrying it as "socialism," the for-profit healthcare complex is a big-businessman's wet dream.

    Also, the computer virus was because Windows.

  • by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:34PM (#38330264)

    Hospitals are often quite badly prepared for this sort of thing. A big problem is the number of computerised "medical devices" where the vendor insists on a very specific update policy (or very specific restrictions on 3rd party software).

    I worked at one hospital where Confiker took the whole IT system down. A big problem in repairing the damage was that there were a lot of PACS (digital X-ray/CT/MRI viewing/storage) workstations where the PACS vendor would not permit the relevant windows updates or a 3rd party anti-virus to be installed on the servers/workstations. They relented after a 24 hour stand-off, after they realised that they was nothing they could do to keep the system happy enough to meet the SLA without the updates and a suitable anti-malware.

    I work at another hospital now, where similar lack of updates due to comparability with old business apps prevents updates. E.g. The PCs still run XP SP1 (even the brand-new quad core xeons). There also doesn't appear to be funding for updating anti-malware - the hospital use Sophos 7 (which became unsupported last year).

    This hospital has chronic problems with virus/malware infestation on a number of office machines - but while IT can clean the computers manually, there seems to be a reservoir if infection on file-servers, USB drives, etc. So the infections come straight back after a manual deletion. This hasn't caused a catastrophe locally, so management don't seem to care, but it is a major annoyance, as infected documents frequently end-up getting e-mailed out to other hospitals/doctors and destroyed without trace by the recipient's e-mail system. Docs have been known to put the files on a USB stick, take it home, clean it with an up-to-date virus scanner and then e-mail it out.

  • Re:Wait a second (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:39PM (#38330304)
    What happened back then was it took a lot more staff to treat a lot more people. This issue isn't keeping doctors from treating patients, it's keeping them from treating as many patients. Everything is probably having to be done on paper, which means that someone (a nurse more than likely) has to walk that paper where ever it needs to be. This has the double impact of taking more time than it normally would, and requiring someone to take time out their normal duty to move it. That is why they are still taking actual emergency cases, and turning away non-life threatening, less serious cases. So that the ER does not get completely backed up that they can't treat a life-threatening case that may show up.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday December 10, 2011 @06:59PM (#38330492) Homepage Journal

    A sore throat can be something trivial, but it can also be something major. Going to a GP to have it checked out rather than waiting and seeing is the height of common sense. A hospital, not so much. Hospitals can do nothing a GP can't do, for those sorts of ailments. Hospitals only make sense if you actually need centralized, high-end medical treatment. You can't fit an MRI into a GP's office and a doctor certainly can't take one with them if they're doing house calls, nor will smaller facilities be able to detect everything in-house.

    Oh, I thought you were referring to a society with sensible health-care!

    The most intelligent health-care systems are ones where the method of delivery is one that suits the complaint. That doesn't necessarily mean the best - a poor but intelligent system will be more effective than a poor but stupid one, and will also be more reliable and more responsive than a rich but stupid one, but the rich but stupid system will still deliver better results in the end. What you want is rich and intelligent, but no country currently does that.

  • Re:which o/s (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday December 10, 2011 @07:04PM (#38330542) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps, but IE is a major security hole. At the very least, hospitals should be absolutely required to use a secure browser. Secondly, with ERP, etc, being browser based, there's no difference from an operator standpoint between Windows and OpenBSD. You still click links, you still open tabs, you still get to set the wallpaper on the background. Ergo, there's no rational reason to use something that's expensive and insecure over something that's cheap and secure. If there are no platform-specific apps (they're all web-based) then go with the OS that is least likely to endanger service.

  • This is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Saturday December 10, 2011 @07:47PM (#38330844)
    Yet another example of how technology makes us stupid. How ever did we manage BEFORE computers and computer records... I guess patients just died in the hallways. The other day I went to a tire shop and asked the guy for some tires. He said he didn't have any. I asked him if he could check to see if another store in the chain across town had some. He said the computer network was down, and he couldn't do it from there. I guess telephones no longer work for calling the other store up and asking them like they did 20 years ago.
  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @08:17PM (#38331066)

    What if you're poor? You have two choices:
    1) Urgent care, which takes cash-only payments (and usually requires them up-front), or
    2) Emergency rooms, which are free; you just have to say "I don't have insurance and I don't have any money". Or even better, you can say "No habla Ingles". The hospital is required to treat you, and then pass the bill on to all the other patients by charging them $10 for a tylenol pill and $20 for a band-aid.

  • Re:This is (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zootie ( 190797 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @08:31PM (#38331162)

    While I might agree that some people do become stupid with tech (and oversimplify the complexity that computers are covering up and compensating), we also can't oversimplify the fact that it's not trivial to go back 20+ years to pre-computer procedures overnight for a temporary problem that will go away in a few days (or minutes or hours, as in the case of the tire shop employee).

    Besides employees not getting paid enough to go the extra mile (or that they're supposed to be doing something else), the likely end reason is likely that it isn't affordable or efficient or even possible. As it is, a common complain in the healthcare industry is that they're understaffed, and with automation, the number of employees has been reduced so much they would never be able to deal with the backlog manually (assuming that enough employees had the training to deal with pre-computer issues). Not to mention that in a complex team workflow, exceptions would make it risky (ie, if the patient isn't registered in the system, his/hers tests can't be attached, so the doctors can't access them properly, opening the hospital to liabilities).

    Old systems likely broke down and got replaced by digital systems that require much less from their operators. Before they might have been able to print, but maybe that printer isn't there anymore. Going all the way back to pre-computers might mean leaches.

    As for your tire experience. Maybe the employee was lazy and wasn't willing to go the extra mile. Or maybe he didn't have a yellow pages or a company directory (which might have been on-line). Or, likely, he is supposed to tend the counter, and isn't allowed to do something else when he is supposed to be servicing people coming in the door (or answering the phone). In the "olden days", we might have been dealing with the store owner, which would be more inclined to GEM, but with franchises and staffs cut to a minimum for the sake of 80%+ normalcy, it's no surprise that the quality of service suffers.

    In spirit, I agree that computers have made it too easy for stupidity to thrive. In fact, they have made it so easy that it is endemic at the business level, not just at the employee level. Rather than doing the work, businesses just farm it out to someone else, and then to someone else (ie, the "Cloud philosophy"), and you end up dealing with shells that are so far removed from the data that have no knowledge or interest in providing a reasonable service that falls slightly outside the normal expectation. And even when it's a typical offering, quality is often substandard and it only fulfills the need in the most general sense. But I'm starting to digress to another topic, so I'll stop.

  • The Real Story... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Saturday December 10, 2011 @10:59PM (#38331948) that they have created a system where in they can't function as a hospital without computers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 10, 2011 @11:45PM (#38332132)

    they can't function as a hospital without computers.

    Change "computers" to "Windows" and you'll be getting to the heart of the problem.

  • by prisoner-of-enigma ( 535770 ) on Sunday December 11, 2011 @10:02AM (#38334444) Homepage

    There are two main reasons this has become true: electronic medical records and efficiency. The former is being mandated by the government. The latter is due to the lack of enough people to fill slots in the healthcare industry due to the personnel crunch, requiring hospitals to do more with less.

    I do technology consulting for hospitals. One thing that's always pissed me off is the nursing shortage. Hospitals go out of their way to woo doctors to their facilities, but nursing pay remains pathetic by comparison. Yet nurses work the same crappy hours and put up with the same ornery patients. Is there any wonder why there's a shortage of people entering the nursing field? And yet the hospitals *can't* really pay the nurses more because nearly all of them are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy at any given time due to Medicare's payment schedule.

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