update deskIsrael News

Software glitch causes Israeli hospitals to mix up drug prescriptions

Israel's Health Ministry is recommending that anyone hospitalized in the past two months verify the prescriptions in their discharge letters.

Medicines on a conveyor belt at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Aug. 2, 2023. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS.
Medicines on a conveyor belt at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center on Aug. 2, 2023. Photo by Yoav Dudkevitch/TPS.

A malfunction in software used by Israeli hospitals has led to an unknown number of patients being given incorrect medications, the country’s Health Ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

The software, called Chameleon, provides doctors with an overview of all the patients in a given department, along with treatment status, test results and more. The software is used in government hospitals and in hospitals belonging to Clalit, Israel’s largest health care provider. Overall, 20 hospitals have been affected.

“Following the malfunction, the scope and significance of which are now being examined, an incorrect list of regular medications was recorded in the medical records of some of the hospitalized patients,” according to the ministry. “The extent of the defect is under investigation and will be reported to the public as soon as it becomes known.”

The Health Ministry received initial reports about errors in patient records 10 days ago. Of particular concern were patient discharge documents containing incorrect prescriptions. When the ministry received similar reports from other hospitals, it ordered an investigation.

The ministry directed the hospitals to verify medicines administered or prescribed to patients. It also recommended that anyone hospitalized in the last two months see their doctor to verify the prescriptions in their discharge letters.

Elad Health, which developed the software, described the problem as a bug, and ruled out a cyberattack.

Since 2021, Israeli hospitals have suffered a series of cyberattacks, with severe consequences. These incidents have included ransomware attacks, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and data breaches, all aimed at crippling the hospitals’ operations and compromising patient information.

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman reported in May that Israel’s health care sector was vulnerable to cyberattacks. To test the preparedness of the hospitals, a team of hackers overseen by his office staged a controlled penetration of one major hospital, revealing deficiencies in the medical center’s security precautions and responses to the “hack.”

Englman’s report stressed the vulnerability of hospital equipment, such as ultrasound and MRI scanning devices, which are also integrated into hospital information networks.

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