NGHS hit with cyberattack

Cyber criminals have caused huge disruptions at many hospitals and healthcare systems in Georgia, including Gainsville-based Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS).

The Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) reports the hack is very serious and continues to impact many systems. Some hospital systems, like Change Healthcare, reported a cyberattack on February 21. Hackers have also disrupted operations at UnitedHealth Group subsidiary’s computers. 

About the impact on Northeast Georgia Health System, spokesman Lane Saliba issued this statement late Wednesday afternoon:

“NGHS typically uses Change Healthcare to help us process some pharmacy benefits, but our IT Security teams moved quickly to sever any link to Change as soon as we were aware of their issues. Thankfully, that disconnect doesn’t impact our ability to process prescriptions for people who are in the hospital or our long-term care centers. It has, however, kept us from confirming pharmacy benefits for people who depend on us to fill their routine prescriptions – which leads to higher out-of-pocket costs. In instances where that cost increase is high, we’re helping those customers have their prescription filled at a different pharmacy that can process their benefits.

We’ve also run into some issues with a few healthcare insurance companies/payors that use Change Healthcare at some point in their business processes, which has led to a little more than $2 million in claims for care we’ve provided that we can’t accurately bill those payors for yet. The downstream impact is that some patients may see a delay in receiving their final bill.”

It’s not just health systems that have been affected but pharmacies and doctors’ offices as well. And it’s nationwide, too.

As the New York Times puts it “The hacking shut down the nation’s biggest health care payment system, causing financial chaos that affected a broad spectrum ranging from large hospitals to single-doctor practices.”

Reuters broke the story last week, but the full scope of the attack is just now coming into focus. UnitedHealth says ‘Blackcat’ ransomware group behind hack at tech unit – SRN News

(Georgia News Network contributed to this story.)