US: The Change Healthcare cyberattack is still impacting pharmacies. It’s a bigger deal than you think

More than 100 health-related services were impacted by the attack, and there’s still no word on when things will be back to normal.

Pharmacies across the United States are still grappling with substantial disruptions following a cyberattack on UnitedHealth’s technology unit, Change Healthcare, as reported by multiple pharmacy chains through official statements and on various social media platforms. The attack led to a nationwide outage of a network designed to communicate data between healthcare providers and insurance companies.

The healthcare technology company, a part of Optum and owned by UnitedHealth Group, shared in a statement on its website on Monday that it had taken “immediate action to disconnect Change Healthcare’s systems to prevent further impact in the interest of protecting our partners and patients.” It further listed more than 100 Change Healthcare services that were impacted by the attack, including benefits verification, claims submission, and prior authorization.

In an email to Fast Company, Change Healthcare provided this update: “Since identifying the cyber incident, we have worked closely with customers and clients to ensure people have access to the medications and the care they need. We also continue to work closely with law enforcement and a number of third parties, including Mandiant and Palo Alto Networks, on this attack against Change Healthcare’s systems. We appreciate the partnership and hard work of all of our relevant stakeholders to ensure providers and pharmacists have effective workarounds to serve their patients as systems are restored to normal. As we remediate, the most impacted partners are those who have disconnected from our systems and/or have not chosen to execute workarounds.”

Healthcare services, as part of an ongoing digital transformation, are gradually integrating technology into their processes and patient care. This shift has increased the importance of easily accessible and shareable patient data, making healthcare services particularly attractive to would-be cyberattackers. As data systems become crucial for hospital operations, some may prefer paying a ransom to restore functionality rather than risking losing access to their digital networks.

This vulnerability leaves hospitals exposed to cyberattacks, and even if a ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that attackers have deleted stolen data. Furthermore, hospitals must navigate the legal obligation to disclose data breaches, placing the responsibility squarely on their shoulders in dealing with such attacks.

By Tracy Brown Hamilton, Fast Company

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