A Hack on the Healthcare Network Ascencion Has Caused Problems in Hospitals Across the Us

A Hack on the Healthcare Network Ascencion Has Caused Problems in Hospitals Across the Us

Thursday, hospitals across the country were affected when Ascencion, a large health system, confirmed it had been hacked. This comes at a time when security in health care is becoming more of a worry due to an alarming rise in breaches.

Thursday, healthcare workers in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, and other states said that they had to stop taking care of patients while Ascencion, one of the biggest private healthcare systems in the U.S., was dealing with the attack. The health system based in St. Louis which has 140 hospitals across the US said it first learned about the attack on Wednesday. It said that clinical operations were still being affected, which forced hospitals to cut their links to the online system.

“We saw strange activity on some technology network systems on May 8,” Ascension said in a statement Thursday. “We now think this is because of a cyber security event.” “Right now, we’re still looking into what happened.” We reacted right away, started our investigation, and started making things right. Some systems can’t be accessed right now while this process goes on.

As attacks on healthcare networks become more common, the Ascencion breach comes at a time when hacking is getting more attention. Attacks often affect protected health information and other data, like account numbers, Social Security numbers, phone numbers, and addresses. Andrew Witty, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, was asked to appear before Congress last week after a ransomware attack in February put patient care and sensitive data at risk. Witty told Congress that the breach touched about one-third of all Americans.

‘It’s like the 1980s or 1990s’ when computers are locked down

Healthcare workers at Ascension Wisconsin sites said they couldn’t get into Epic, which is used to store medical information about patients and manage their care. Because of the interruption, doctors and nurses can’t see patients’ medical histories or other information about them. They also can’t talk to each other across hospital areas like they used to, and they can’t see many of the labs or test results that patients have had in the past. Healthcare workers said they have to use paper notes to keep track of patients’ conditions, write prescriptions, and order procedures.

RN Tracey Schwerdtfeger of Ascension St. Francis Hospital on the south side of Milwaukee said, “This is a crisis situation.” “It’s really just seemed to paralyze a lot of the stuff we need to do.”

There were problems with the computer network in Michigan around 7 a.m. Wednesday, according to three workers who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were afraid of losing their jobs.

“There was a security risk, so they shut down the system,” a doctor told the USA TODAY Network’s Free Press. “It’s affecting everything.”

It was said by another Ascension Michigan doctor, “We can’t get to medical records, labs, radiology or X-rays, or place orders.” Everything has to be written down. It feels like the 1980s or 1990s. You call the lab and get the results over the phone. Then you go to the X-ray room to look at the film copies. But we do train for these kinds of situations, so it’s just a lot harder.

A nurse told the Free Press on Wednesday night that Ascension hospitals were still taking patients by ambulance who were critically ill and needed life-saving care. However, patients who were more stable and could be taken to other nearby hospitals for care were sent somewhere else because of the computer network outage.

“I just hope it doesn’t last very long because certainly patient care will be negatively impacted,” a doctor said. “The data shows that during computer network downtime, your risk of an adverse event goes up.”

Ascension said it is working with the cybersecurity consulting firm Mandiant to look into the attack and help figure out what information, if any, was lost or stolen.

“Should we determine that any sensitive information was affected, we will notify and support those individuals in accordance with all relevant regulatory and legal guidelines,” Ascension said in a post.

Breaches put millions of Americans in danger

A record amount of healthcare data breaches happened last year, putting the medical information of more than 144 million Americans at risk. This was found by USA TODAY by looking at data from the Health and Human Services.

According to the study, attacks on third-party vendors hired by hospitals have more than tripled since 2019. These attacks are growing much faster than attacks on traditional healthcare providers straight.

A ransomware group went after Change Healthcare earlier this year. UnitedHealth Group owns Change Healthcare, which is the country’s biggest healthcare payment system. The HHS says that the company is in charge of 15 billion healthcare transactions every year and a third of all patient data.

President of the American Hospital Association Rick Pollack called the attack on Change Healthcare the “most important and consequential event of its kind against the U.S. health care system in history.” Pollack said that the breach caused problems for hospitals for almost two weeks, making it harder to fill medicines, file insurance claims, and get paid.

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