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Appalachian Regional Healthcare Experiences Cyberattack

Appalachian Regional Healthcare is investigating a security breach that has potentially resulted in the protected health information of patients being viewed or stolen by hackers.

On Saturday August 27, 2016, a computer virus was discovered to have been installed on Appalachian Regional Healthcare’s system. Computer systems were immediately shut down to prevent the spread of the virus to other systems. As a result, web based services and electronic communications have been affected.

Patient registrations, physician’s notes, medical imaging services, and lab test results are all being managed manually until systems are brought back online. No timescale has been provided on when systems are likely to be restored.

Medical services are still being provided by Appalachian Regional Healthcare, although without access to computer systems patients may experience delays receiving medical services. Patient care processes are being closely monitored and additional staff may be brought in and resources diverted to prevent major disruptions to the provision of patient care.

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A press release has been issued by Appalachian Regional Healthcare advising patients to bring details of prescribed medications and their medical histories with them to appointments, if possible. That applies to visits to physicians’ practices as well as emergency rooms.

The incident has been reported to federal authorities and an investigation has been launched; however, few details of the security breach have been released so as not to jeopardize the investigation.

It is currently unclear how many patients have been affected by the security breach and what protected health information has been exposed. Appalachian Regional Healthcare is working closely with the FBI and is attempting to determine which systems have been infected and whether PHI has been viewed or obtained by the attackers. The breach is understood to have affected patients who have previously received treatment at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital or Summers County Appalachian Regional Hospital.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.