The Ripple Effects of Cyberattacks Ascension and DocGo Under Siege

Introduction

Cyberattacks have become a significant concern for large healthcare organizations, often leading to system clean-ups, data breaches, and potential harm to patient care. The recent cyberattacks on Ascension and DocGo highlight the challenges these organizations face, including service disruptions, high costs, and increased regulatory scrutiny.

Ascension Attack Snares Guthrie Hospital

Initial Impact and Response

The May 8 ransomware attack on Ascension left Guthrie Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, New York, grappling with system outages. The hospital had maintained some temporary connections to Ascension’s network, even after joining The Guthrie Clinic in February. This linkage caused operational disruptions when Ascension’s systems were compromised.

“Although Lourdes became part of The Guthrie Clinic in February, the hospital and associated clinics maintained some temporary linkages to the Ascension network while a permanent and organized migration to Guthrie systems can be phased in,” the New York hospital explained on its website.

Guthrie’s IT team acted swiftly to sever Lourdes’ connections with the affected systems, ensuring that no other Guthrie facilities were impacted by the attack.

Ongoing Challenges

Despite the quick response, the attack has had lingering effects. The Lourdes Hospital Emergency Room remains operational, but prescription services are still disrupted. Patients are advised to obtain paper prescriptions from providers and fill them at other retail pharmacies, including Guthrie’s facilities in Corning and Sayre, Pennsylvania.

Broader Impact on Ascension Patients

Ascension patients across multiple states are experiencing strained care as systems are gradually restored. This widespread disruption underscores the extensive fallout from the cyberattack.

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DocGo Files Data Breach

Incident Overview

On May 7, DocGo, a provider of ambulatory and remote patient monitoring services in the U.S. and U.K., reported a data breach to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The cyberattack exposed U.S. patient data, primarily affecting the company’s ambulance transportation business.

“As part of its investigation, the company has determined that the threat actor accessed and acquired data, including certain protected health information, from a limited number of healthcare records within the company’s U.S.-based ambulance transportation business, and that no other business lines have been involved,” DocGo said in the SEC filing.

Business Operations and Financial Outlook

Despite the breach, DocGo’s business operations remained unaffected. The company released robust first-quarter earnings a day after the breach report, with total revenue increasing to $192.1 million from $113 million in the same period last year. DocGo projects 2024 revenues between $280 to $300 million, reflecting strong growth and resilience.

CommonSpirit Financial Results Improve

Financial Performance Post-Breach

CommonSpirit Health, a major healthcare organization that suffered a debilitating cyberattack in October 2022, has reported improved financial performance. The for-profit organization announced operating revenues of $9.25 billion and operating expenses of $9.62 billion for the quarter ending March 31, compared to $8.45 billion in revenues and $8.92 billion in expenses for the same period last year.

“We are pleased to see the continued improvement in our financial performance,” said Dan Morissette, CommonSpirit’s chief financial officer.

Key Drivers of Improvement

The financial improvements were driven by increased patient volumes, with admissions up 4.5%, outpatient visits rising 2%, and emergency room visits growing by 3.9% compared to the previous year. Efficiency gains and reductions in length-of-stay also contributed to the positive results.

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Telehealth Integration and Benefits

CommonSpirit’s integration of telebehavioral care via Teledoc Health into its electronic health records has played a crucial role in achieving efficiency gains. This initiative helped reduce length-of-stay metrics, decrease costs, and increase patient satisfaction.

“Analyzing these metrics, we found the benefits of telebehavioral health satisfied our main objectives: a decrease in length of stay, a decrease in cost, an increase in satisfaction and expectations of care met,” said John Mackenzie, clinical program manager at CommonSpirit Telehealth Network.

The Broader Implications of Healthcare Cyberattacks

Regulatory Scrutiny and Compliance

Healthcare organizations targeted by cyberattacks often face increased regulatory scrutiny. Ensuring compliance with data protection regulations and addressing security vulnerabilities are critical steps in the aftermath of a breach.

Financial and Operational Costs

The financial impact of cyberattacks extends beyond immediate recovery costs. Organizations may face long-term expenses related to system upgrades, enhanced security measures, and potential legal liabilities.

Patient Care and Trust

Service disruptions due to cyberattacks can significantly impact patient care. Ensuring continuity of care during system outages is a major challenge for healthcare providers. Additionally, data breaches can erode patient trust, making it imperative for organizations to prioritize transparency and communication.

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Mitigating Cyberattack Risks

Strengthening Cybersecurity Measures

To mitigate the risk of future cyberattacks, healthcare organizations must invest in robust cybersecurity measures. This includes regular system audits, employee training, and the implementation of advanced threat detection technologies.

Developing Incident Response Plans

Having a comprehensive incident response plan is essential for effectively managing cyberattacks. Such plans should outline clear protocols for identifying, containing, and recovering from security breaches.

Collaborating with Cybersecurity Experts

Engaging with cybersecurity experts can provide valuable insights and support for healthcare organizations. These partnerships can help enhance security posture and ensure compliance with industry standards.

Conclusion

The cyberattacks on Ascension, DocGo, and CommonSpirit highlight the vulnerabilities faced by healthcare organizations in the digital age. While these incidents have caused significant disruptions, they also underscore the importance of resilience and strategic planning in the face of cybersecurity threats.


This blog post offers a detailed analysis of the recent cyberattacks on Ascension, DocGo, and CommonSpirit, focusing on the immediate impacts, ongoing challenges, and broader implications for the healthcare sector. It also discusses strategies for mitigating cyberattack risks and emphasizes the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and effective incident response planning.

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