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Change Healthcare cyberattack inflicts severe damage on physician practices

News
Article

AMA survey paints a grim picture of the aftermath of the cyber-attack, with an 36% of respondents reporting the suspension of claim payments.

Change Healthcare cyberattack fallout: ©2Ragon - stock.adobe.com

Change Healthcare cyberattack fallout: ©2Ragon - stock.adobe.com

The American Medical Association (AMA) has disclosed the profound and lasting repercussions of the Change Healthcare cyberattack, illustrating the precarious state of physician practices across the United States. The findings, unveiled in an informal survey report, underscore a landscape fraught with financial turmoil and jeopardized patient care in the wake of the devastating hack.

Conducted from March 26 to April 3, the survey found that 36% of respondents reporting the suspension of claim payments. Furthermore, 32% lamented their inability to submit claims, while 22% found themselves unable to verify eligibility for benefits. Particularly vulnerable to the fallout are practices housing ten physicians or fewer, bearing the brunt of the crisis.

The repercussions reverberate through the finances of these practices, with 80% reporting revenue losses from unpaid claims. To mitigate the fallout, 85% have had to allocate additional staff time and resources to revenue cycle tasks. Moreover, 51% grapple with revenue hemorrhage due to the inability to charge patient co-pays or remaining obligations.

AMA President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., lamented the distressing impact, stating, "The disruption caused by this cyberattack is causing tremendous financial strain. These survey data show, in stark terms, that practices will close because of this incident, and patients will lose access to their physicians."

Compounding the crisis are the strains on personal finances, as 55% of respondents resorted to dipping into personal funds to cover practice expenses. Shockingly, 44% were unable to purchase necessary supplies, while 31% grappled with the inability to meet payroll demands. Despite the overwhelming challenges, only 15% of practices have resorted to reducing hours thus far.

In a bid to weather the storm, respondents have sought assistance from various quarters, including advance payments, temporary funding aid, and loans. Notable contributors to relief efforts include the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (12%), UnitedHealth Group/Optum (25%), and other health plans (4.5%). However, the lifelines extended have yet to staunch the bleeding entirely.

The survey, comprising a convenience sample of over 1,400 respondents, serves as a poignant reminder of the fragility of physician practices, especially small-scale ones, according to the AMA. Despite assurances from UnitedHealth Group regarding the resumption of claims processing, disruptions persist, underscoring the far-reaching implications of the cyberattack.

The AMA is calling for concerted efforts to safeguard the integrity of physician practices and ensure uninterrupted access to essential health care services for patients nationwide.

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