The Story Is Still Unfolding
This morning, one of my best friends text me that she was sent home from work at 11:30am. There was nothing for her to do. She, like many other employees at the more than 400 Universal Health Services locations, is starting to feel the effects of what could possibly be a ransomware attack. Early signs began to unfold over the weekend.
My friend was greeted this morning by an inability to access anything housed on her computer. While lack of access to billing and emails are concerning, what she found most distressing was the inability to access patient files, reports, and schedules. Everything on her system is locked.
And this is the problem being seen by many other healthcare professionals across the country. While UHS has not outright claimed ransomware, they have made a statement on their site that their facilities are ” currently offline, due to an IT security issue.” Unfortunately, this is often the precursor to a ransomware confirmation.
What It Means
Ransomware attacks on medical institutions are particularly nasty because they compromise staff’s ability to access critical information. In an article by Nsikan Akpan for PBS, Akpan writes, “After data breaches, as many as 36 additional deaths per 10,000 heart attacks occurred annually at the hundreds of hospitals examined in the new study.”
The lack of access to information can be deadly for patients in hospitals and other medical facilities. Essential services also shut down during and directly after an attack. Hospitals in Wyoming in 2019 had to reroute patients 70 miles after losing access to critical care.
The After Effects
We’re still watching the UHS “IT security issue” play out. Over the next few days and weeks, the effects of this issue will make themselves known. The best we can hope for is a minor inconvenience for patients rather than full on medical emergencies.
Let’s hope there’s a plan in place so that when workers like my friend return tomorrow, there’s a way for them to continue to provide care.
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