Cyber-Attack Hit Multiple State Hospitals

Multiple states had hospitals hit with a cyber-attack last week, prompting patients to be removed from emergency rooms and postponing elective procedures.

Ardent Health Services, based in the Nashville, Tennessee, suburb of Brentwood, which runs over 30 hospitals nationwide, said they were victims of a cyber-attack in Texas, New Mexico, New Jersey and Oklahoma.

The attack caused hospitals to shut down many of their computerized services.

Ardent reported that the cyber-attack had affected computer programs that track patients’ healthcare records, among others.

The health services company stated it could not confirm the extent of any compromised patient health or financial information.

“In an abundance of caution, our facilities are rescheduling some non-emergent, elective procedures and diverting some emergency room patients to other area hospitals until systems are back online,” Ardent said in a news release.

The situation becomes problematic when a targeted hospital provides specialized care, including for trauma and stroke patients. If they are fortunate enough, another suitable hospital is nearby.

“But in certain areas, especially rural and critical access areas, you can have a prolonged transport time because of diversions,” said Dr. Christian Dameff, co-director of the Center for Healthcare Cybersecurity at the University of California, San Diego.

William Spell, of Amarillo, TX, said he and his mother had flu-like symptoms for days but couldn’t make a doctor’s appointment through the online patient portal because of the cyber-attack. The 34-year-old reported that his doctor recommended trying an urgent care clinic since there was no time frame for when the outage would end.

“That’s just something we cannot do because urgent cares charge a lot of money just to walk through the door and be seen by a doctor,” said Spell. “There’s no way we can afford that.”

The FBI is investigating the attack, stating that cyberattacks tend to happen around the holiday season since hackers believe there is less security on duty.

Ardent is one of the largest health operators to fall victim to a cyber-attack.