A cyber attack on a major hospital system could affect 20 million Americans

A recent ransomware attack on a major health system that operates more than 1,000 hospitals and care facilities in 21 states could affect millions of Americans.

CommonSpirit Health suffered a cyberattack on Oct. 3, which forced the health company to shutdown certain computer systems “as a precautionary step,” the company said shortly after learning of the incident.

While it remains unclear whether patients’ health information was compromised, patients did report the effects of the cyber attack on their healthcare and treatments.

Here’s what you should know about a cyber attack.

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MercyOne in Des Moines took its computer systems offline after the attack. CommonSpirit Health is a parent company of MercyOne.
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What is CommonSpirit Health?

says CommonSpirit Health System, a Chicago-based nonprofit health system that operates 140 hospitals and more than 1,000 care sites in 21 states.

In 2019, CommonSpirit treated 20 million patients, according to Dignity Health International, part of the CommonSpirit Health family.

what happened?

CommonSpirit computer systems were targeted by a ransomware attack in October, cutting off access to electronic health records and delaying patient care in multiple regions.

It is unclear if sensitive information about patients was stolen in the cyber attack.

It is unclear if sensitive information about patients was stolen in the cyber attack.
(Jakob Borzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It is not clear whether sensitive patient information was stolen in the cyberattack.

Cybersecurity experts continue to investigate.

Who is affected?

The ransomware attack had dire consequences for patients after electronic medical records became inaccessible due to systems not working.

CommonSpirit said last week that electronic patient health records became available after its system was taken offline following the cyberattack.

CommonSpirit said last week that electronic patient health records became available after its system was taken offline following the cyberattack.
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Kelly Barsi told WHO Television that she took her son, Jay, to Mercy One Des Moines Medical Center for dehydration the same day the technical problems began at the facility. She said a doctor told her her son was mistakenly given five times as many painkillers as he was prescribed after their machine failed.

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Some patients across the country have had to delay important surgeries.

Kathy Kellogg was scheduled to undergo tongue removal for a cancerous tumor at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in Seattle, King TV reported, but she had to reschedule because her CommonSpirit system was out of work.

what’s going on?

CommonSpirit released an update on November 9, more than a month after the ransomware attack, and said it was still working to get its systems online and restore full functionality as quickly and safely as possible.

The health system said that electronic health records are now available through its system, including in hospitals and clinics, and most patients can review their medical history again through the patient portal, adding that it is working to restore appointment scheduling capabilities to the portal.

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“At CommonSpirit Health, we are committed to meeting the needs of the communities we serve and guided by our core set of values, which include integrity, excellence, and collaboration,” said CommonSpirit. “We are grateful to our committed staff and physicians, who are doing everything they can to mitigate the impact on our patients and maintain continuity of care.”

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