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Nationwide pharmacy delays following Change Healthcare hack

Nationwide pharmacy delays following Change Healthcare hack

A cyberattack on Change Healthcare has caused widespread disruptions, affecting pharmacies and patient care across the nation.


What happened

Change Healthcare, a prominent health tech company, experienced a cyberattack on February 21, 2024, which affected the company's operations and led to severe service disruptions. The attack's impact extended to a range of services within Change Healthcare's network, causing notable operational challenges. The specifics of the attack, including the methods used and the data compromised, were not immediately disclosed. The company has been working to address the issue and restore affected services.

Change Healthcare provides critical services such as billing, claims processing, and health information exchange and serves a wide range of healthcare entities, from individual providers to large health systems and insurance companies. Their role in facilitating a significant portion of healthcare transactions in the U.S. makes any disruption to their services impactful on a national scale, affecting both the healthcare industry's operational efficiency and patient care.


Why it matters

The cyberattack on Change Healthcare matters significantly due to its disruption of pharmacy operations nationwide, affecting prescription processing and patient care. The attack's impact on Change Healthcare's systems led to delays and challenges for pharmacies in fulfilling prescriptions, directly impacting patients who rely on timely access to medications.

As reported in TechCrunch, Michigan pharmacies are experiencing outages due to the Change Healthcare cyberattack. Scheurer Family Pharmacy in Michigan said they'd been unable to process prescriptions at any of the four locations. As of writing, they had just begun processing prescriptions.


By the numbers:

  • UnitedHealth Group's OptumInsight unit acquired Change Healthcare for $13 billion.
  • Annual revenue is about $3.48 billion.
  • Number of employees: c. 14,000
  • The company's health information network reaches approximately 1,200 government and commercial payers, 700,000 providers, 5,000 hospitals, 105,000 dentists, 60,000 pharmacies, 600 vendor partners, and 150 labs.


What they're saying

On their status page, the company said, "Once we became aware of the outside threat, in the interest of protecting our partners and patients, we took immediate action to disconnect our systems to prevent further impact... The disruption is expected to last at least through the day."

They note that the disruption appears to only be impacting Change Healthcare and that "other systems across UnitedHealth Group are operational."

Michael Scruggs from Front Range Pharmacy described to Nexstar's KDVR that Change Healthcare is crucial for connecting pharmacies with insurers, ensuring seamless transactions. During the outage, pharmacies faced choices: switch networks, accept cash, or manually process claims. Scruggs' pharmacy successfully switched networks, avoiding prescription fulfillment issues. A "switch" refers to the digital intermediary facilitating claims between pharmacies and insurers.


In the know:

In 2022, UnitedHealth Group's Optum merged with Change Healthcare in a deal valued at $7.8 billion. This merger significantly expanded Optum's access to the health records of millions of Americans, enhancing its footprint in the healthcare services sector.

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