One third of U.S. healthcare system disrupted after massive cyberattack by unnamed nation state
· Feb 23, 2024 ·

While everyone was worried about the AT&T outage being a potential cyberattack, part of world's largest healthcare organization went dark in an unprecedented attack by an unnamed nation state.

As part of the United Healthcare system, Change Healthcare runs several clinics, connects patients to over 800,000 physicians, handles 15 billion healthcare transactions annually, and processes pharmaceutical data for 129 million Americans.

In other words, about a third of the country‘s healthcare is dependent on the organization, and they're all offline.

That is not good news for America.

Perhaps the most immediate concern is the pharmaceutical arm, as many prescriptions around the country are unable to be filled while Change Healthcare is down, including for all active-duty military personnel.

Tricare, the U.S. military's healthcare provider for active-duty personnel, said all military pharmacies, clinics and hospitals worldwide were affected by Change Healthcare's systems going offline. The pharmacies are filling prescriptions manually.

Scott Air Force Base in Illinois said in a social-media post that its clinic 'is facing heavy delays with both activation and refill for prescriptions.' General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital in Missouri said it would fill prescriptions using 'an offline process.'

The organization's update page has issued the same status over and over for the past two days.

Change Healthcare is experiencing a cyber security issue, and our experts are working to address the matter. Once we became aware of the outside threat, in the interest of protecting our partners and patients, we took immediate action to disconnect our systems to prevent further impact. At this time, we believe the issue is specific to Change Healthcare and all other systems across UnitedHealth Group are operational. The disruption is expected to last at least through the day. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.

The American Hospital Association is recommending that all facilities disconnect from all Optum services and check their own systems for attacks.

'Due to the sector-wide presence and the concentration of mission-critical services provided by Optum, the reported interruption could have significant cascading and disruptive effects on revenue cycle, certain health care technologies and clinical authorizations provided by Optum across the healthcare sector,' AHA said.

Thus, the hospital organization is recommending 'that all healthcare organizations that were disrupted or are potentially exposed by this incident consider disconnection from Optum until it is independently deemed safe to reconnect.'

There is no word on exactly what the nature of the attack is - if it's ransomware or something else. There's also no reports on if patient information has been compromised.

It's also unknown when Change Healthcare will be back up and operational, or how one third of Americans will get their life-sustaining prescriptions when they need them.

Good luck out there, folks!

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