US Healthcare System Under Siege: Cyberattack Forces Ambulance Diversions at Major Network

US Healthcare System Under Siege: Cyberattack Forces Ambulance Diversions at Major Network | Enterprise Wired

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Source- WTAE

Ambulances Diverted

A major US healthcare system, Ascension, announced on Thursday that it has been forced to divert ambulances from “several” of its hospitals in the wake of a cyberattack. The attack has affected Ascension, a nonprofit network headquartered in St. Louis, which oversees 140 hospitals spread across 19 states. In addition to disrupting access to electronic health records, the cyberattack has impacted phone systems and various systems utilized for medical procedures and prescriptions, as per Ascension’s statement issued on Thursday.

Impact on Healthcare Operations

The sprawling healthcare network, which also manages 40 senior living facilities, has resorted to implementing “downtime procedures” in response to the cyberattack. These procedures involve reverting to backup processes, including paper records, to ensure the continuity of patient care in the absence of functioning computer systems. The extent of the disruption caused by the cyberattack remains significant, prompting Ascension to adopt precautionary measures to mitigate the impact on healthcare operations.

Response and Recovery Efforts

Following the revelation of the cyberattack on Wednesday, Ascension has swiftly enacted response and recovery protocols familiar to many US organizations grappling with cyber threats. The healthcare system has notified federal authorities, engaged the services of renowned US cybersecurity firm Mandiant to address the incident, and initiated system shutdowns to contain the breach. Ascension emphasized its commitment to supporting its healthcare facilities in providing safe patient care by implementing established downtime protocols and procedures.

Broader Implications

The cyberattack on Ascension adds to a string of major hacking incidents that have afflicted prominent US healthcare networks, prompting urgent government intervention and scrutiny. A ransomware attack on Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, in February disrupted billing operations at pharmacies nationwide and posed a significant threat to healthcare providers. UnitedHealth CEO Andrew Witty estimated that a third of Americans may have had their personal data compromised in the attack. The incident underscores the vulnerabilities of America’s healthcare infrastructure to disruptive cyber threats, raising concerns among policymakers and government agencies about the systemic risks posed by such incidents.

As Ascension works to contain the fallout from the cyberattack and restore normal operations, the incident serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for robust cybersecurity measures across the healthcare sector to safeguard patient data and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of critical healthcare services.

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