$67 Million: Bottom-Line Impact of a Cyber Attack

By By Dan Hounsell
March 4, 2021

The numbers are staggering.

Healthcare data breaches in 2020 totaled 599, up 55.1 percent from 2019. An unauthorized individual gained access to two employees' email accounts for a Michigan health system, potentially exposing about 45,000 patients' information. But what about the cost? What is the bottom-line impact of a cyber attack? One health system has put a dollar amount to such an attack.

The ransomware attack that resulted in electronic health record (EHR) outages at all 400 Universal Healthcare Services (UHS) care sites for about three weeks last year resulted in about $67 million in lost operating income, labor expenses, and overall recovery costs, according to Health IT Security.

UHS was among the first hit with the coordinated ransomware wave that targeted the healthcare sector in the fall. After the attack, UHS clinicians and staff members took to Reddit to determine if other UHS employees across the country were experiencing similar computer and phone outages. The thread detailed internet and data center outages, with one employee attributing the incident to a ransomware attack after seeing ransom messages from the Ryuk hacking group displayed on some computer screens.

As a result of the disruption to standard operating procedures, some patient activity, including ambulance traffic and elective procedures at UHS acute care hospitals were diverted to competitor facilities.

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Topic Area: Information Technology

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