Impact Seen for Hospitals Nearby but Not Affected by Ransomware Attacks

Increases seen for multiple measures of patient volume and wait times in the emergency department
Emergency sign at a small hospital
Emergency sign at a small hospitalAdobe Stock
Medically Reviewed By:
Mark Arredondo, M.D.

WEDNESDAY, May 10, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitals geographically adjacent to health care delivery organizations affected by ransomware attacks may see increases in patient census and may experience resource constraints, according to a study published online May 8 in JAMA Network Open.

Christian Dameff, M.D., from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues examined an institution’s emergency department patient volumes and stroke care metrics during a month-long ransomware attack on a geographically proximal but separate health care delivery organization. The analysis included the four weeks prior to the ransomware attack (April 3 to 30, 2021), during the attack and recovery (May 1 to 28, 2021), and four weeks after recovery (May 29 to June 25, 2021).

The researchers found that compared with the preattack phase, during the attack phase, there were significant associated increases in the daily mean emergency department census (218.4 versus 251.4), emergency medical service arrivals (1,741 versus 2,354), admissions (1,614 versus 1,722), patients leaving without being seen (158 versus 360), and patients leaving against medical advice (107 versus 161). Compared with the preattack phase, there were also significant associated increases in median waiting room times, total emergency department length of stay for admitted patients, stroke code activations, and confirmed strokes.

"These findings suggest that targeted hospital cyberattacks may be associated with disruptions of health care delivery at nontargeted hospitals within a community and should be considered a regional disaster," the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text

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