Cyber Attack at Change Healthcare Affects Pharmacies Nationwide

Feb. 23, 2024
An ongoing cyber security issue at Change Healthcare, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth, disrupts pharmacy services across the US

Georgia-based Change Healthcare, the largest prescription provider in North America, is reporting that it is experiencing an ongoing cybersecurity breach, causing prescription delays for numerous pharmacies, including military pharmacies. Change Healthcare first reported the cyber-attack on Feb 21.

In the incident tracker on Change Healthcare’s website, the company states that is has disconnected its systems to prevent further impact. “At this time, we believe the issue is specific to Change Healthcare, and all other systems across UnitedHealth Group are operational,” a statement published on Feb. 22 reads.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) reports that it “[h]as been in communication with the FBI, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) regarding this incident.” AHA suggests that the interruptions could have significant effects on the revenue cycle and recommends healthcare facilities disconnect from Optum systems and test their data backups.

Stat News’ Bob Herman tweeted the following, “The cyberattack on UnitedHealth's Change Healthcare is completely disrupting how hospitals & pharmacies can submit claims, and how insurers can pay them. Hospitals will be on a call w/ FBI, other fed agencies today.” Healthcare services executive Dan O’Neill responded with, “Under-appreciated risk of constant consolidation. Once upon a time, there were more smaller clearinghouses, and now there are only two with ubiquitous reach (Availity and Change), each of which serves as the exclusive claims & eligibility gateway for some large insurers."

“In 2022, health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group completed its merger of U.S. healthcare services giant Optum and Change Healthcare in a $7.8 billion deal, which allowed Optum broad access to patient records on tens of millions of Americans,” Zack Whittaker of TechCrunch reports.

The specific nature of the cyber-attack remains unknown. This is a developing story, and Healthcare Innovation will update readers as new developments emerge.

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