Change Healthcare offers funding program, prescribing workaround after cyberattack: 7 updates

Optum's Change Healthcare continued to deal with outages March 1, nine days after a ransomware attack took its systems offline. Here are seven updates.

1. Change implemented an e-prescribing workaround for pharmacies March 1. The new instance of Rx ePrescribing launched after a successful round of testing with vendors and retail pharmacies. Change's e-prescribing feature for providers, however, remained offline March 1.

2. Change introduced a temporary funding assistance program March 1 to help providers affected by payer system outages. The money is available to affected providers with no fees, interest or other costs. Some physician practices said they could be at risk of closing because they had been unable to bill payers and were struggling with cash flow. Change Healthcare estimated that about 85% of claims are being processed with workarounds implemented; of the remaining number, 8% involve claims to payers exclusive to Change.

3. Change set up a website March 1 with updates on the cyberattack and information for providers, pharmacies and chief information security officers.

4. Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are assisting Change Healthcare with an "additional scanning of our cloud environment," the company said March 1.

5. West Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health is the latest health system to disconnect from Change Healthcare, the Quad-City Times reported March 1. "This has impacted the ability of our outpatient pharmacies to submit prescription claims to insurance plans," UnityPoint told the news outlet. "We are doing our best to fill urgent prescriptions, but please know there may be an additional wait time and payment requirements until Change Healthcare's system is restored."

Previous systems to remove their connections to the vendor include Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger; Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health; Helena, Mont.-based St. Peter's Health; and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. The American Hospital Association has advised health systems to disconnect from applications affected by the cyberattack. Change said March 1 that its "most impacted partners are those who have disconnected from our systems and/or have not chosen to execute workarounds."

6. The American Hospital Association is staying in "close contact at the highest levels" with Optum and Change Healthcare parent company UnitedHealth Group to minimize disruptions to hospitals, AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack wrote Feb 29. He said the AHA hosted a call on the incident Feb. 23 with nearly 3,000 hospital leaders.

Mr. Pollack called the cyberattack the "most serious incident of its kind leveled against a U.S. healthcare organization."

7. Cybersecurity experts are predicting the outage could last weeks. The Joint Commission and AHA have said hospitals and health systems should prepare for about a month of downtime after a ransomware attack. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago's IT and phone systems were still down March 1 following a Jan. 31 cyberattack.

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