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Hospitals face greater threat of cyberattacks

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(The Center Square) – Hospitals across Illinois and the United States are dealing with increasing numbers of cyberattacks.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, large ransomware breaches in the health care sector increased 278% from 2018 to 2022. Matt Dean, senior fellow for Healthcare Policy Outreach at The Heartland Institute, said hospitals can’t just go to the police when cyberattacks happen.

“What if your private medical data was on the other side of that equation? It makes it really tough for a hospital administrator, a hospital president trying to deal with this. It’s a pickle,” Dean said.

Cyberattackers went after Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago earlier this year.

“It wasn’t just billing or records. It was access to medical records, so you couldn’t bring up your file if you have your portal where you log on with your password. They had to shut it all down,” Dean said.

The cyberattacks have led to difficult decisions for hospitals and health care facilities.

“They have your data, your electronic medical record, all of your sensitive data that they are duty-bound to not share anywhere, ever. And somebody might leak that, they’ll say, unless you pay us money,” Dean explained.

Dean said hospitals can’t afford to pay ransom to people in other countries every time they want money.

“Our smaller rural hospitals, I mean, they’re just one instance away, an average of ten-million bucks when they’re breached. That can put a small hospital out of business,” Dean said.

St. Margaret’s Health in Peru and Spring Valley, Illinois closed last June, in part due to a ransomware attack in 2021.

Dean said the federal government should do its job and protect its citizens.