Chicago children's hospital IT outage marks a week

IT and phone systems were still down Feb. 6 at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, nearly a week after the organization took them offline to deal with a cybersecurity incident.

The hospital set up a call center for parents to get more information and has encouraged patients to come in for scheduled appointments unless they're told otherwise. But its phone, email and MyChart patient portal remained down Feb. 6.

"We acknowledge the inconvenience and concern this system outage causes for our patient families, team members, and community providers," Lurie Children's said in a Feb. 5 statement. "Please understand this process takes time and know that we have highly experienced, capable, and empathetic teams of both internal and external experts responding to this matter. We also continue to work in collaboration with law enforcement."

Patients' family members have been posting on social media since the outage began, both praising Lurie Children's staff for their response and expressing aggravation over the lack of information. Hospitals and health systems are often tight-lipped about the cause of cyberattacks early on; for instance, it took Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health 10 days to confirm it had fallen victim to a ransomware attack in 2022. 

"We recognize the frustration of not having clarity on when this will be resolved," the Lurie Children's statement said. "Our investigation remains ongoing and we are working around the clock to resolve this matter."

Hackers continue to hit the healthcare industry hard; health system ransomware attacks nearly doubled in 2023. The downtime after the hacks averages about three weeks, according to data company Statista. Prospect Medical Holdings, a 16-hospital system based in Culver City, Calif., didn't get its IT systems back online until 40 days after a cyberattack last summer.

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