Urgent Visits, Hospitalizations Dip Post Ransomware Attacks

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California hospitals went on to experience reduced emergency department visits as well as inpatient admissions for weeks post-ransomware attack, as per a study published in JAMA.

Notably, the emergency visits along with inpatient admissions went on to dip by over 8% at the targeted hospitals a week after the attack, and they went on to drop by over 16% in the second week.

Near it, the unattacked hospitals went on to experience elevated emergency department visits, thereby suggesting the consequences of such kinds of attacks happen to be much broader as compared to the targeted hospitals, say the researchers.

Ransomware, which happens to be a kind of malware that denies the user access to their data until a ransom gets paid, has proven to be a major threat to hospital operations. It is well to be noted that major hospital chains such as CommonSpirit and Ascension have gone on to be targeted, and a ransomware attack against Change Healthcare, UnitedHealth’s tech firm, has jolted key tasks such as the processing of claims and payments throughout the health sector in 2024. Attacks against the providers can go on to have potentially disrupting effects when it comes to care delivery, and it at times takes even weeks, if not months, for the hospitals to recover completely.

The fact is that Ransomware can indeed go ahead and shut down electronic health records, make delays in the scheduled procedures and also force the ambulances to take diversion to other facilties. Moreover, some providers have gone on to report a surge in the patient mortality rate due to ransomware attacks.

As per the latest study, which went on to analyze the California emergency department as well as the patient discharge data from 2014 until 2020, it looked to drill down on the healthcare effects after hospitals got hit by an attack.

The researchers happened to find emergency visits as well as inpatient admissions at the targeted facilities return to pre-attack in eight weeks. At the unattacked hospital nearby, the study went on to report a surge in visits to the emergency departments for almost 4 weeks, thereby reaching a 7% uptick in the third week post-ransomware attack. But the researchers did not find any statistically significant rise in inpatient admissions at the hospitals located nearby.