A virus infected the computer network of MedStar Health early Monday morning, forcing the them to shut down its email and vast records database.
MedStar operates 10 hospitals in Maryland and Washington, including the MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, along with other facilities. We have no evidence of stolen information, and continue to assess the situation.
No indication was given as to the nature of the attack, but a number of health organisations have recently been targeted by ransomware, which encrypts single or multiple systems across a network and then demands payment to unlock them. As reported by the Washington Post, the greatest drawback of this event is the significant slowing down of processing for patients’ and doctors’ records. “There’s only one system we use, and now it’s just paper”, said one MedStar employee who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak to reporters.
In the meantime, MedStar said it is relying on backup systems including paper documentation.
In mid-March, hackers attacked Methodist Hospital, an averaged-sized medical facility located in western Kentucky. It employees 30,000 associates and has 6,000 affiliated physicians.
A spokesperson for the local hospital said she could not speak about the virus attack, but referred media questions to Ann C. Nickels, MedStar Health assistant vice president for PR and communications.
MedStar Health is one of the biggest non-profit medical service providers in the USA capital region.
In addition to delays in record searches, it’s also possible that appointments and surgeries will have to be delayed too, as will lab results, one medical professional told the Washington Post.
Healthcare Informatics will update its readers on additional developments in this story as they occur.
Although the LA hospital that was targeted by hackers paid the ransom, the Federal Bureau of Investigation does not recommend that ransom be paid. “Ransomware attacks typically hold system operations hostage until victims pay a ransom to regain access and return operations back to normal”. The diversions were lifted as the hospitals’ backup systems started operating, he said.