How UnitedHealth handled crisis communications after Change hack

UnitedHealth Group initially gave few details about the Change Healthcare hack then tried to recruit providers to act as spokespeople for its loan program, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Houston-based Memorial Hermann Health System and Mishawaka, Ind.-based Franciscan Health, for instance, disconnected from UnitedHealth's massive claims processor after gathering details about the incident from colleagues, according to the April 3 story.

"We started to hear whispers among friends about outages," Jay Bhat, administrative director of information security at Franciscan Health, told the newspaper. "Our teams were really dying for information about what was going on and how long things were going to be down."

Change Healthcare initially sent out barebones technical support alerts after taking more than 100 applications offline Feb. 21 before launching a website March 1 with more extensive updates.

Change "moved swiftly and transparently to communicate with those impacted by this attack in the shortest time possible," a UnitedHealth spokesperson told the Journal, pointing to conference calls attended by "thousands of people."

Some providers unable to process claims said they only heard from the company after talking to the media and felt compelled to make positive statements after receiving loans from UnitedHealth, according to the story.

"In a small number of cases, we asked providers who received funds if they would be willing to help alert other providers of available funding," the UnitedHealth spokesperson told the news outlet. "Our goal has always been to help get the word out to as many providers as possible."

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