Ascension health care network disrupted by cyberattack, interrupting clinical operations


Health care nonprofit Ascension targeted in cyberattack

Health care nonprofit Ascension targeted in cyberattack


CHICAGO (CBS) — The Ascension health care network announced Wednesday that its clinical operations have been disrupted by a cyberattack.

In a news release, Ascension said it responded immediately, and access to some systems has been interrupted with remediation efforts in progress.

“Our care teams are trained for these kinds of disruptions and have initiated procedures to ensure patient care delivery continues to be safe and as minimally impacted as possible,” Ascension said in a news release. “There has been a disruption to clinical operations, and we continue to assess the impact and duration of the disruption.”

Ascension said it has brought in the cybersecurity firm Mandiant Solutions to help investigate, and has notified authorities.

“Together, we are working to fully investigate what information, if any, may have been affected by the situation,” Ascension said. “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 did advise that business partners temporarily suspend their connection to the Ascension system.

Ascension is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit and Catholic health systems.

This follows a ransomware attack on Change Healthcare — a subsidiary of health care giant UnitedHealth Group — which has compromised sensitive patient data and created billing headaches at pharmacies, hospitals and practices nationwide, threatening to put some health providers out of business.

Health care providers across the U.S. have suffered from a spike in ransomware attacks in recent years.

Last month, HHS Secretary Becerra told CBS News that the consolidation of healthcare networks nationwide risks “capacity com[ing] at the expense of real competition,” adding, “The consolidation occurs to such an extent that there’s only a few players and when one or two of those big players goes down, so goes the industry. We can’t afford to have that.”

Ascension Illinois currently operates 14 hospitals in the Chicago area – including Ascension Holy Family in Des Plaines, Ascension Alexian Brothers Medical Center and Behavioral Health Hospital in Elk Grove Village, Ascension St. Alexius in Hoffman Estates, Ascension St. Mary and St. Elizabeth in West Town, Ascension St. Joseph in East Lakeview, Ascension St. Francis in Evanston, and Ascension Resurrection in Norwood Park. The disruption was also affecting hospitals in Michigan.

These hospitals had been part of the AMITA partnership between Ascension and AdventHealth before the partnership split up two years ago.

In January, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago was also hit with a high-profile cyberattack. The hospital had to take its phone, email, and other systems offline as a result – and weeks of disruptions to regular operations ensued.

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