Week 3: When it all Comes Crashing

Gianna F -

This week’s blog is going to be pretty anecdotal. I will be talking about a cyber attack on health care. 

First, let me provide you with the background..

Around two weeks ago, there was a cyber security attack on Change Healthcare. Change Healthcare is a major company that manages the majority of healthcare services’ revenue cycles, scheduling, and pharmacy communications. Basically, it’s a major platform and this outage was serious. However, Change Healthcare plays different roles depending on what general system you’re using to manage your private medical facility. For example, the system used by Arizona Oncology was completely disrupted while the one used at the clinic only has certain features down. 


Now, this was a really unique situation to see as an OBSERVER. Everyone back at AZ Oncology we’re sent into a frenzy. In fact, Malinda said that within her 16 years of work there she has never dealt with a crash. While this was a National issue, each facility was left to figure out how to manage it by themselves. Arizona Oncology (AO) first developed an excel sheet that all the doctors were using to see when they were scheduled. Secondly, they switched to a temporary scheduling system, but the issue is no one knew how to use it! When I went in last Thursday, I walked into a big online meeting of endless direction on how to use this system and that’s what they’ve been trying to communicate to their entire scheduling team for a couple of days now. This weekend, employees had to come in and reschedule almost 300 patients, and it was hard for them to find willing employees. 

Something I learned when they were discussing this problem is that it will always fall on the administrator to fix the mess regardless of whether or not it’s their job. I believe Malinda (the Director of Operations) was coming in over the weekend to help reschedule patients because some employees could not make it in on the weekend, which is fair. If this was not enough, another pretty big issue they’re facing is collecting profit. Now the new system they are using does not allow them to collect co-pays or any payment. They have had to send home their billing sector, with pay, because there is no work for them. Their plan as of right now, is to call the patients back when their old system is working again to collect revenue. However, this is going to require more weekends worked. AO is currently paying for really expensive infusions and medications now without insurance and patient compensation. I asked Malinda, noticing all these extra fees and the lack of payment, “How long would they be able to keep on performing procedures before they could not afford it anymore?” Of course, she did not know the exact amount of time, but I could tell it was a stressor. She did say though, that this will definitely affect their month. 

In all this mess, at least they had their own pharmacy. At AZ Neurosurgery and Spin, we do not. 


While there has not been issues with collecting patient payment or scheduling, there has been issues with verifying insurances and sending medications to a pharmacy. Luckily, this will not require extra weekend work. 


Today, according to CNBC, “90% of the nation’s pharmacies have set up an electronic workaround.” 


Through this experience, I got to see how such facilities tackle these challenges, how alone they are in these situations (“We hear crickets from corporate during these situations” – Malinda), and how financially straining these issues are. 


Next week I will give everyone an update. Thank you for reading! 

AZ Oncology

AZ Oncology
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    Hi Gianna! That is so stressful that there was a crash! With all the chaos and the effort to move the information to other systems, is it possible that some patients' information could have been lost in the crash? Or is there some backup system that saved everything from before the attack and kept all the information?
    Taylor Phelan
    Hey, Gianna! That sounds like a pretty intense week. From your observation, do you think it is important for businesses (esp. medical facilities) to already have backup storage for patient/payment information? I know most facilities are almost entirely online now, so for the future, do you think that will be important?
    Ahh! It sounds like this cyber attack caused quite a bit of chaos. Did this problem affect your job at the clinic, as I know you’ve mentioned handling the billing system there? Do you think that AZ Oncology is going to change some of their processes to protect against future system failures?
    Hi Zoey! It has been pretty stressful! Fortunately, the patients data being lost is not one of the effects of the attack. However, attacks like these are designed to collect data on the patients which can be concerning.
    Hi Taylor! While I do think it is important, to have a duplicate system maintained for the possibility of a crash is not a priority for most businesses because of the additional work/process that would require. However, I do think our medical facilities could be using more secure systems instead of ones that open on web browsers.
    Hi Maddie! The attack only effected our doctors' ability to send pharmacy prescriptions. The only issue I faced is verifying new insurances, but luckily most of my work has been with 2023 patient/insurance billing as tax season is approaching! Unfortunately, I was not able to make it into Arizona Oncology this week to figure out that answer, but I think that with everyone trained in different systems they are better prepared to transfer if needed again.

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