Thanksgiving outages at hospitals caused by ransomware

An outage that has affected hospitals in at least four states across the South and Midwest is being attributed to a ransomware attack on Ardent Health Services, based in Nashville, Tenn.

Ardent Health Services and its affiliated entities detected a cybersecurity incident on Nov. 23 and are characterizing the event as a ransomware attack, according to a Nov. 27 news release from Ardent. The incident forced Ardent to shut down its network, temporarily halting user access to various IT applications, including Epic, internet and clinical programs.

Ardent has informed law enforcement about the cybersecurity incident and is working with third-party forensic and threat intelligence advisers. Ardent has also introduced additional IT security protocols and is collaborating with cybersecurity experts to restore IT operations, according to the release. The extent of compromised patient health or financial data is currently unconfirmed.

As a precaution, non-emergent elective procedures are being rescheduled at Ardent facilities, and some emergency room patients are being redirected to other hospitals. CNN reported that the affected hospitals include a 263-bed facility in Albuquerque, N.M.; a 365-bed hospital in Montclair, N.J.; and a group of hospitals in East Texas. Currently, these hospitals are unable to receive ambulance services.

A nurse employed at one of the impacted hospitals in New Jersey informed CNN that the staff hurriedly "printed out as much patient information as possible" once it became evident that the hospital was disabling its networks due to the hacking incident.

The investigation and restoration of EHR systems and clinical systems are ongoing, and the full impact and duration of the incident are yet to be determined, according to the release.

Ardent owns and operates 30 hospitals and more than 200 sites of care.

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