US hospital chain CommonSpirit Health says ‘IT security issue’ is disrupting services

CommonSpirit, the second-largest nonprofit hospital chain in the U.S., has confirmed a cybersecurity incident that is disrupting medical services across the country.

In a brief statement, Chicago-based CommonSpirit said the “IT security issue” is impacting some of CommonSpirit’s facilities and some patient appointments have been rescheduled as a result.

“CommonSpirit Health is managing an IT security issue that is impacting some of our facilities,” said the hospital giant, which operates more than 700 care sites and 142 hospitals in 21 states. “As a precautionary step, we have taken certain IT systems offline, which may include electronic health record and other systems.”

“Our facilities are following existing protocols for system outages and taking steps to minimize the disruption. We take our responsibility to ensure the security of our IT systems very seriously. As a result of this issue, we have rescheduled some patient appointments. Patients will be contacted directly by their provider and/or care facility if their appointment is impacted.”

CommonSpirit has yet to confirm the nature of the security incident, and it is unknown if patient information or health data was compromised. When reached, CommonSpirit spokesperson Chad Burns declined to comment beyond the organization’s statement.

The extent of the disruption caused by the issue is emerging. CommonSpirit’s Nebraska-based subsidiary, CHI Health, reported outages across its Omaha hospitals, and MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center has shut down some of its IT systems, including access to its electronic health records.

In July, U.S. cybersecurity agency CISA, the FBI and the U.S. Treasury warned in a joint statement that North Korea-backed hackers were targeting healthcare and public health sector organizations across the U.S. with ransomware.

The warning followed a spate of high-profile attacks on U.S. healthcare systems, including University Medical Center Southern Nevada, Eskenazi Health, and Kaiser Permanente. According to Brett Callow, threat analyst at Emsisoft, at least 15 U.S. health systems operating 61 hospitals across the country have been impacted by ransomware so far in 2022. In at least 12 of these incidents, sensitive data, including personal health information (PHI), was compromised.