Viewpoints: HEALTHeLINK deserves community support

By Daniel Porreca and Anthony J. Billittier I

As has been well reported, one Sunday morning in April, the entire computer network at Erie County Medical Center was suddenly shut down due to a cybersecurity attack. While the hospital’s IT team immediately worked to bring its system back online, hospital staff quickly switched back to a manual and completely paper-based system to maintain patient care.

Although this incident is yet one more example of an ever-growing number of criminal cyberattacks, it revealed a somewhat surprising additional added value from HEALTHeLINK, Western New York’s health information exchange (HIE).

Fortunately, ECMC was already a HEALTHeLINK data source prior to the outage and had been uploading its patient care data to HEALTHeLINK for quite some time so other health care organizations could provide even better care of common patients. This forward thinking on ECMC’s part proved to pay dividends. While this cyberattack prevented ECMC staff from accessing its own electronic patient records directly, ECMC’s patient information was still readily available by connecting to HEALTHeLINK. HEALTHeLINK essentially proved to be ECMC’s backup system!

Partnering with the hospital’s IT department, HEALTHeLINK staff spent the first 24 hours and the following days enabling secure access to HEALTHeLINK data for care providers and medical staff to ensure patient health information was available to support patient care.

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