Why Ascension outage is bringing critical care to a standstill

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MILWAUKEE — Technology has vastly changed how jobs in the health industry operate.

“Electronic health records have been around for a long time,” said Kim Litwack, the Dean of UWM’s College of Health Professions and Sciences. “We have nurses now who have never seen paper charts. I started with paper charts, but those have been long gone.”

“Do you even teach nurses how to file paper records anymore?” TMJ4’s Mariam Mackar asked.

“We teach them how to chart very well, but no, we do not teach them how to paper and pencil chart anymore.”

Now, health professionals across the board at Ascension hospitals are forced to learn how to.

“In the old days we had papers that said ‘prep notes’, ‘lab reports’—those don’t exist anymore,” Litwack explained.

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Kim Litwack, Dean of UWM Nursing.

The Dean told TMJ4 that the multi-day computer system failure has majorly impacted how doctors and nurses operate.

“It really has brought healthcare systems to a standstill. We don’t have mechanisms in place to deal with this. We don’t know how to contact patients if you can’t look up phone numbers, we can’t order prescriptions, we can’t look at lab tests.”

Litwack explains the situation is the equivalent of having to re-learn your day-to-day operations.

And though schools don’t teach students how to paper chart anymore, the rising frequency of cyber-attacks on healthcare giants means crisis management might make its way to the curriculum.

“I think we have to start bringing it up. We have to bring it up with our nursing staff, we bring it up with physical therapy,” Litwack said.

There’s no telling how long before this Ascension outage is fixed.

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